Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Literature update #5 2018

LITERATURE OVERVIEW: See our list of articles of interest from September

Highlight 1

The authors Ann Buchana and Theano Kallinikaki summarises the situation regarding unaccompanied children in Greece, 2017/2018. Greece is under obligation to the UNHCR and the Greek Law to provide security and safety for unaccompanied minors. At the same time the Greek authorities are dealing with this challenge with an economic climate that is still suffering from the recession and EU austerity measures, that has an profound effect on children and families in Greece. In the article ‘Meeting the needs of unaccompanied children in Greece’, the authors discusses the challenges of meeting the needs for unaccompanied children.


Highlight 2

Gaining insight into the viewpoints of protest groups against the Norwegian Child Welfare Services on social media is of great interest for many researchers. But how can this insight be obtained in an ethical way when it is difficult to decide whether certain material is public or not? Ebba Stang from Oslo Metrapolitan University aims in her paper ‘Ethical decision-making in internet research – Investigation protest groups against Child Welfare Services on Facebook’, to shead light on this issue .


How articles are selected

  • A full list of articles are collected based on TOC alerts from journals by the publishers; Taylor & Francis Online, SAGE Journals, Science Direct, Brill Publisher, Idunn, Oxford Academics and Cambridge Core.
  • The short list is selected based on an assessment of the articles theoretical, methodological and/or empirical relevance to the projects at the Centre.
  • Please note that the list of articles is not based on a qualitative assessment of the articles scientific contributions or level.

ILLUSTRATION: Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism / MGalloway, Wikimedia Commons

Full list of new publications


Child protection


Comparative international data on patterns of inequality in child welfare interventions, for example, the proportion of children about whom there are substantiated child protection concerns or who are in out-of-home care, are far less developed than data about inequalities in health. Few countries collect reliable, comprehensive information and definitions, methods of data collection and analysis are rarely consistent. The four UK countries (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) provide a potential ‘natural experiment’ for comparing intervention patterns. This study reports on a large quantitative, descriptive study focusing on children in contact with children’s services on a single date in 2015. It found that children’s chances of receiving a child protection intervention were related to family socio-economic circumstances, measured by neighbourhood deprivation, within all four countries. There was a strong social gradient which was significantly steeper in some countries than others. Ethnicity was another important factor underlying inequalities. While inequalities in patterns of intervention between the four countries were considerable, they did not mirror relative levels of deprivation in the child population. Inequalities in intervention rates result from a combination of demand and supply factors. The level and extent of inequity raise profound ethical, economic and practical challenges to those involved in child protection, the wider society and the state.



The Swedish Child Protection Services (CPS) are responsible for providing support and protection to children experiencing domestic violence, but in a high proportion of cases where there is a suspicion that children are experiencing violence, no investigation is opened.The aim of this article is to explore on what grounds decisions were made not to open an investigation in cases initiated due to concerns that a child might have been experiencing domestic violence.The analysis is based on qualitative data consisting of 116 preliminary assessments that resulted in the cases being closed without further action. The analysis uses a theoretical model in which the CPS sorting process is understood as a way of describing a case in such a way that it fits into the organisation’s problem categories, rules and procedures.The analysis shows that a set of institutional assumptions and presuppositions affect the decision to screen out cases involving this form of child abuse. The legal requirement for voluntary parental cooperation has a profound impact on the outcome of a case. Cases are also screened out when the case workers find that parental cooperation is limited. Nor are there procedures for dealing with (psychological) violence that is not aimed directly at the child, but occurs between the parents. The outcome in these cases is that the parents’ interpretation is given precedence, while the needs of the child are seen as of less importance and become deprioritised.



Cultural confusion is a common experience among children in foster care. But it can be especially severe for Muslims when their faith, traditional values and way of life are disrespected and when this is exacerbated by removal from familiar home environments. This article describes the experiences of young people affected by this and critically examines how their situation matches the definitions of good practice in agencies and professionals seeking to help them. Four issues emerged: the child’s confusion surrounding separation and moving to somewhere strange; identifying the right placement; intervening in a way that offers children future choices; and the ever-present risk of discrimination. In each of these situations, well-meaning and firmly established fostering practices can be insensitive to the needs and wishes of Muslim children. This confounds their understanding of their self, depresses their sense of social belonging and demands they adjust in order to survive. The article makes recommendations to support Muslim adolescents entering care and to improve the practice of the professionals and agencies responsible for them. The dearth of specialist therapeutic services is highlighted, along with suggestions for future research.



At a time when both extensive international and national protest and criticisms are directed toward the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, it is of great interest to researchers to gain insight into the viewpoints presented in protest groups on social media. The paper aims to give insight into the ethical judgement involved in research on digital communities where it is difficult to decide whether certain material is public or not. In addition, the paper reflects on the social consequences of understanding some participants as vulnerable versus understanding them as citizens, in a social work/child protection context on social media. A considerable amount of literature focuses on ethical questions in Internet research. There is also literature on the ethical considerations connected to resistance and protest groups on social media. There is, however, less existing research about the ethical decision-making within the field of social work, child protection and client protests on the Internet. This paper analyses certain experiences from a qualitative research project regarding Facebook groups protesting Child Welfare Services in Norway. The paper concludes that in some social media research contexts, as the one presented here, taking extra care to anonymize participants in publications is sufficient to secure privacy, and covert collection of data is possible without jeopardizing ethical guidelines. Further, by developing practical ethical judgement, we can – in some social work contexts – avoid putting people into categories like “vulnerable” and instead approach the participants in public Facebook groups as citizens with socio-political opinions.



This paper studies the impact of political guidelines in social work. The paper is inspired by the literature on street-level bureaucracy and uses this perspective in the discussion of whether different risk assessment models regulate the participation of vulnerable children and families’ network in the risk assessment process. The empirical strategy applies mixed methods to the survey data and interviews with social workers. The data are collected in Denmark where the two risk assessment models, Integrated Children’s System (ICS) and Signs of Safety (SoS), have been implemented in most municipalities. These two models are discussed and analysed with a third way of assessing risks – the more traditional way, which in this paper will termed the municipality model (MM). The paper will answer the following research question: How do political guidelines such as risk assessment models regulate the participation of the child and families’ network in the risk assessment process? The discussion is framed from a social worker perspective. This discussion is important since participation of children and families’ network has been on the political and professional agenda. Furthermore, one of the main reasons for implementing the new risk assessment models is more participation and inclusion of the families’ network in the process. However, this study will show that it is mainly the social workers using the newer models who are challenged by the participation of children and families’ network. The study contributes to the discussion about the extent to which political guidelines regulate social work practice.


The Norwegian journal Tidsskrift Norges Barnevern has published their second volume this year.


Migrant children


This article summarizes the situation of unaccompanied child (UAC) refugees in Greece in 2017/2018. It notes the number and characteristics of these children, the challenging situation in responding to their needs in a country where many native children are living in poverty and deprivation following the EU austerity measures. This article also outlines the legal obligations and EU directives for looking after UACs. Finally, it summarizes the challenges for social workers on the ground of responding to the rights of the incoming UACs. Selected examples are presented with reference to the priorities under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989.



Migrants are increasingly categorized with different ‘statuses’ – that is, classified, quantified, coded and placed into hierarchies that are politically and socially determined and have embodied and material effects. However, scholarly critiques of status often remain focused on legal descriptors and dichotomous categories such as refugee/migrant or legal/illegal. Drawing on multiple examples from media and scholarly literature on contemporary Australian migration, I seek to show how diverse and complex forms of migrant status are ‘made’ in relation to both voluntary and involuntary migrant mobilities – that is, how they are produced, contested and contestable across fluid legal, political, social and cultural lines. In doing so, I argue that a critical sociological orientation towards ‘status-making’, rather than uncritical categorizing of migrants into ‘types’, may be conceptually useful in contexts of immigration complexity.



This article explores how migrant parents resist racist and stigmatising stereotypes about their parenthood. The analysis examines the parents’ ways of ‘talking back’ to racialised categories and category predicates, which position migrant parents as unfit. Family relationships are crucial to decisions of when, where and with whom to move as well as how to live in the new country. The ways in which parents are met in family services, such as maternity healthcare, daycare and schools, influence their sense of belonging. Nonetheless, parents also use their agency to negotiate their identities by talking back to negative categorisations of them as unfit parents. The data of the study consist of individual and group interviews with migrant parents in five different cities in Finland. Altogether, 24 parents took part in interviews. The method of the study is membership categorisation analysis, which focuses on cultural structures that are produced and maintained in everyday life. As a result of the analysis, two ways of talking back were identified: first, migrant parents disengage from the negative category predicates, which assume them as abusive towards their children. Second, the parents stress their normalcy by addressing that their life situations, gendered family roles and parenting goals are similar in all families. We also found that migrant parents are often perceived as a unified group in dominant cultural discourses and even welfare services, and this perception can result in structural racism.


Human Rights


Sociology has an important part to play in understanding human rights. In this article, I trace obstacles within sociology to theoretically conceptualize human rights as an ideology. These impediments, I suggest, demonstrate the need to recognize the blind spots within sociological research. However, instead of trying to persuade readers why human rights qualifies as an ideology, I attempt to demonstrate why it is beneficial for sociological inquiry to conceptualize human rights as an ideology. Instead of following the widely accepted practice of understanding human rights as a desirable set of values designed to promote a liberal peace, I propose conceptualizing human rights as an ideology which, through its institutionalization, produces coercive organizational and doctrine power. The question of whether its organizational and doctrine power is capable of value penetration in micro-solidarity groups opens up a new prism through which sociologists can assess the successes and failures of human rights ideology on the ground.


Public attitudes


Research demonstrates the multi-dimensional nature of American identity arguing that the normative content of American identity relates to political ideologies in the United States, but the sense of belonging to the nation does not. This paper replicates that analysis and extends it to the German and British cases. Exploratory structural equation modeling attests to cross-cultural validity of measures of the sense of belonging and norms of uncritical loyalty and engagement for positive change. In the 2010s, we find partisanship and ideology in all three nations explains levels of belonging and the two content dimensions. Interestingly, those identifying with major parties of the left and right in all three countries have a higher sense of belonging and uncritical loyalty than their moderate counterparts. The relationship between partisanship, ideology, and national identity seems to wax and wane over time, presumably because elite political discourse linking party or ideology to identity varies from one political moment to the next.


Book reviews




  • Alexander, (Proff), Glorija, (Proff), Steinrem, I. & Toresen, G. (eds.) (2018) Barnas barnevern. Trygt, nyttig og samarbeidende for barn. Universitetsforlaget.

Read more about the chapter “Barneperspektiv i fokus” (“Child Perspective in Focus”) by professor Marit Skivenes here: http://www.discretion.uib.no/child-perspective-in-focus/ 


  • Featherstone, B., Gupta, A., Morris, K. & White, S. (eds.) (2018). Protecting Children. A social model. Policy Press.  



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