Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Comparing states: When should parental freedoms be restricted?

NEW ARTICLE: Examining public attitudes towards parental freedoms in cases of risk to the child, Professor Jill D. Berrick (UC Berkeley), Professor Marit Skivenes and Dr. Joseph N. Roscoe (Rogers Behavioral Health) find significant differences between Californians (USA) and Norwegians in this new publication in  Journal of Social Policy.[i]

Child protection interventions are often harshly criticized and opinions on when and what are legitimate restrictions on individuals’ freedom varies. In this article, Berrick, Skivenes & Roscoe examine Californians and Norwegians perspectives on parental freedom in context of risk to the child.

Tolerance for state intervention in Norway

In general, the public accept limitations imposed by the state on parents’ rights to care for their child, and that the level of risk are of importance for people.

– We find a clear effect associated with the severity of risk in both samples. As risk for the child increases, so too does the population’s willingness to restrict parental freedom, says Marit Skivenes.

Despite general approval for increased parenting restrictions with higher risk levels, the study also finds interesting differences between the two jurisdictions.

Even under conditions of considerable risk to the child, respondents in California are significantly more likely to support unfettered parental freedoms. About one-fourth of participants in the study endorse unrestricted parenting. Norwegians, on the other hand, do not share this sentiment.

– With a constitutional frame that guarantees children have rights that are equal to those of other citizens, along with a state welfare infrastructure that provides a relatively thick web of protection for citizens, Norwegians are highly unlikely to support unrestricted parenting, Skivenes points out.

Counter-intuitive to these findings, citizens in California tend to display an equally high level of support towards suspending parental freedoms as the Norwegians, remarks Skivenes.

The article is available open access by using the link below.

[i] Berrick, J. D., Skivenes, M. & Roscoe, J. N. (2022) Parental Freedom in the Context of Risk to the Child: Citizens’ Views of Child Protection and the State in the US and Norway. Journal of Social Policy.

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