Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Views on thresholds and reasons for child protection intervention

NEW ARTICLE: In this article,[1] Professor Marit Skivenes explores cross-country variation of population views on the thresholds of child protection measures. Do media outlets who strongly criticize child protection agencies accurately reflect value positions of a society?

Norway has been subject to significant criticism by news outlets, civil society organizations, religious actors and ultra-conservative groups world-wide for how its child protection system handles the protection of children’s rights. Simultaneously, Norway ranks consistently high on measures of children’s rights and well-being. How do harsh media criticism match up to societal values?

In this article, Marit Skivenes explores societal values of representative samples of the population in England, Norway, Poland and Romania. The article investigates agreement with government intervention between these countries based on type of parental problems: unsatisfactory care, alcohol misuse, mental health disorder or intellectual disability.

Most agree with restricting parental rights to secure the welfare of the child

A large majority of the representative samples agree with restricting parental freedom, and agree with intrusive interventions to secure the welfare of the child. This is an important finding and may have implications for how to reflect on the legitimacy of child protection systems, as well as the standing of children’s rights in a society.

Citizens in all four countries give children’s rights priority over rights to family privacy in specific situations and indicates a child centrism in these countries. The findings suggest the need to be cautious about massive media coverage and mass media’s outcry and call for reform of child protection systems.

Norwegian attitudes remain unaffected by type of parental problem

When respondents were asked about acceptance of child protection interventions for different types of parental issues, there are interesting between-country variations. All, except Norwegians, showed effects on type of parental problems for agreement on type of interventions, indicating that citizens expect differential treatment of parents’ dependent on the reason for negligent care of children. 

These results indicate that, perhaps, Norwegians do not differentiate because they regard the risk to the child as similar regardless of parental problems. This may reflect a strong sense of child centrism in the Norwegian population.

Yet, the main finding of this study is that many citizens indeed do support prioritising children’s rights over parental rights. This allows unmediated state responsibility for respecting and protecting children’s rights.

[1] Skivenes, Marit. 2021. Exploring populations view on thresholds and reasons for child protection intervention – comparing England, Norway, Poland and Romania. European Journal of Social Work, AHEAD-OF-PRINT, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691457.2021.1995706

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