Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Literature update #7 2018

LITERATURE OVERVIEW: See our list of articles of interest from November.


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 welfare


The present study examined the effectiveness of Family Group Conferencing (FGC) in child welfare. Effects were operationalized in terms of child safety (child maltreatment, supervision order, and out-of-home placement), number of professional services used, parental empowerment, and social support in a 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-up. Furthermore, the influence of family characteristics and the level of FGC completion were examined. A total of 328 families were included, randomly assigned to an experimental group (n = 229) and a care as usual (CAU) group (n = 99). FGC was equally effective as CAU in improving child safety but resulted in more out-of-home placements. Furthermore, FGC resulted in a longer duration of child welfare involvement, a marginally higher number of professional services used, and increased parental empowerment and social support. Family characteristics did not moderate the results. Level of FGC completion was in general low. Higher levels of completion were related to a larger social network, a higher number of professional services used, and, marginally, less parental empowerment. In conclusion, although some beneficial results marginally support the use of FGC, it is the question whether these effects outweigh FGC costs, a longer duration of child welfare involvement and a higher number of professional services used.


This paper elucidates how Swedish child welfare social workers manage complexity co-occuring in the families with which they work and the organisational contexts of practice. Focus groups were held with social workers in three municipalities in Sweden who described work processes generally and in response to a fictitious vignette. The vignette was constructed as a complex family situation to explore how social workers approach complexity when faced with a family with complex needs. Findings showed that social workers are challenged in their everyday work where they are aware of the many needs in a family. They focus on immediate conditions for children while recognising that some problems are less amenable to being solved. However they try to manage complexities related to families as well as the structural conditions of work by sorting, prioritising and oscillating between a child focus and a family service orientation. This paper serves as a necessary reminder of the complexity of social work in the broader area of child welfare and raises further questions about the use of comparative typologies to explain social work practices


I forbindelse med revidering av lov om barneverntjenester har det regjeringsoppnevnte Barnevernslovutvalget foreslått å avgrense barneverntjenestens forebyggingsansvar til å spesifikt omfatte de barn som er «i risiko», og som har «særlig behov» for bistand. Alle barn har imidlertid et menneskerettslig krav på trygge oppvekstvilkår. Barneverntjenesten har en særlig kompetanse og erfaring med barn i risiko og bør derfor ta del i samfunnets kollektive ansvar for barn. Hensikten er å sikre nødvendig kompetanseutveksling med andre instanser som arbeider med og for barn. Slik kompetanseutveksling kan igjen sikre kortreist handlekraft innenfor lokalsamfunnene, motvirke individualisering av oppvekstproblematikk i lokalsamfunnene og sikre at barns egne perspektiver får nødvendig fokus i det universelle forebyggingsarbeidet.

This systematic review examined qualitative literature that captured child welfare service users’ experience with child welfare services with a focus on their worker. From 45 studies, 621 helpful and 323 unhelpful aspects were identified. The most frequent helpful aspects included clear communication, instrumental and emotional support, and responsiveness. The most frequent unhelpful aspects included inadequate services, low involvement, and behaviors that undermined confidence. These aspects were organized into common practice model elements: Family Engagement, Teaming, Assessment, Service Planning, Intervention, and Tracking/Adjusting. Approximately 70% of all comments fit within engagement. These findings shed light on concrete behaviors that might more clearly guide service provision efforts and help inform future research on child welfare hiring, training, and supervision.


To better understand how and for whom parenting intervention may improve family outcomes in child welfare services, we examined whether parents’ own history of child abuse moderated the indirect effects of the Promoting First Relationships® (PFR) intervention on toddlers’ secure base behavior via parental sensitivity. Parents (N = 247) and their toddlers (10–24 months) involved with child protective services were randomized to PFR or a control intervention. Results showed that the PFR group demonstrated greater parental sensitivity at postintervention than the control group, which in turn led to higher levels of toddler secure base behavior at 6-month follow-up. Findings from a moderated mediation model indicated that these intervention effects were only evident for parents who experienced physical abuse in their childhood. Parents’ history of sexual or emotional abuse did not significantly moderate outcomes. These results provide evidence for a key mechanism of change in PFR informed by attachment theory and suggest that PFR intervention effects may be stronger in parents at higher risk of the intergenerational transmission of abuse.


Limited evidence suggests that how much a parent drinks in a particular venue, such as a bar, restaurant, or a friend’s home, is associated with use of corporal punishment. However, these relationships could differ depending on their drinking companions (e.g., spouse or friends). In this study, weighted zero-inflated Poisson models were used to examine whether the relationships between venue-specific drinking frequency, heavier drinking, and corporal punishment are moderated by drinking companions in a mixed-mode sample of parents (n = 1,599). The relationships between drinking frequency, heavier drinking, and corporal punishment varied by drinking companions, with some combinations being protective and others conferring risk. While most alcohol screening tools focus on individual alcohol use, more nuanced assessment examining where and with whom parents are drinking could be helpful in understanding risk of physical discipline.


Foster care

This exploratory study used administrative data from the 2015 foster care file of the Adoption and Foster Care Reporting System to examine the experiences and outcomes of infants who had substance abuse indicated as their reason for removal. Logistic regression was used to explore the relationship between removal for substance abuse and race/ethnicity, placement setting, case plan goal, and discharge manner. T-tests were used to compare infants groups with respect to average placement duration. Separate analyses were conducted to compare outcomes for infants with substance abuse as their sole removal reason and for infants with substance abuse included as at least one removal reason amongst others. Nearly 17% of infants had substance abuse indicated as their sole removal reason and over 50% of infants had substance abuse included among multiple removal reasons. Infants removed due to substance abuse differed on a number of key outcomes compared to infants whose cases did not include substance abuse as a removal reason. Findings suggest that local child welfare systems would benefit from ongoing assessment of trends in substance abuse removals and that more attention to the long-term child welfare outcomes of children who were removed due to substance abuse as infants is warranted.



This study tests pathways to adoptive parents’ psychological distress over time and then examines gender differences in psychological distress. Participants included 190 adoptive mothers and 190 adoptive fathers from the longitudinal Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, a study of U.S. domestic infant adoptions. The majority of adoptive parents reported low psychological distress 10 to 20 years post-adoption. Some struggled throughout their adopted youth’s childhood and adolescence. This study utilizes data allowing an examination of parenting during middle childhood and adolescence. For adoptive mothers and fathers, outside stressors significantly predicted psychological distress. For adoptive fathers, perceived parent–child incompatibility was also predictive.


Professional discretion

  •  Alvsvåg, H. & Martinsen, K. M. (2018) Omsorg og skjønn. Tidsskrift for omsorgsforskning, 4(3).

Omsorg er et grunnvilkår, samtidig som det er et vanlig og allment begrep med avgjørende betydning både i livet i sin alminnelighet og i profesjonell praksis. Mennesket lever i avhengighetsrelasjoner, og uten omsorg skades vi, livet går til grunne. Omsorg i profesjonelle sammenhenger uttrykker seg gjennom faglig vurdering og skjønnsutøvelse. Profesjoner gjør bruk av ulike former for kunnskap; teoretisk viten, praktiske gjøremål og klok dømmekraft. Dømmekraften eller skjønnet skaper forbindelser mellom ulike kunnskaper og den aktuelle profesjonelle situasjonen, eller mellom det allmenne og det særskilte. Omsorg som grunnvilkår redegjøres for med utgangspunkt i K.E. Løgstrups filosofi og Chr. Norberg-Schultz tenkning, og faglig skjønn med utgangspunkt i Aristoteles’ og H-G. Gadamers filosofi.


Domestic violence

An earlier article referred to the “absent presence” of the perpetrator in the lives of children and their mothers who have lived with domestic violence. It identified the ways in which the shadow of the perpetrator continued and was evidenced in the “symptoms of abuse” that both women and children experienced in spite of his absence. The current article argues that fathers who use violence are actually more present than absent in the lives of children (and women), even following separation. A mixed method approach surveyed men in Men’s Behaviour Change Programs (N = 101), and interviewed women who had experienced violence (N = 50). The studies reported that the majority of men in both the quantitative men’s study (80%) and the qualitative women’s study (77%) had substantial contact with children. The women’s interviews highlight the problematic fathering that many of their children experienced, both before and after separation. They reported very high levels of child abuse and poor attitudes to both women and children. The article concludes that the family violence and child welfare systems are poorly configured to address fathers who use violence and continue to hold substantial parenting roles, including following separation.


Unaccompanied children

In 2014, the United States saw a greater than 50% increase in the number of unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central America arriving at the U.S./Mexico border, and unaccompanied children continue to migrate to the United States in consistent numbers. The dramatic increase of 2014 exposed gaps in policies aimed at supporting unaccompanied children as they await legal adjudication. This paper begins with a historic review of immigration policies in the United States aimed at supporting unaccompanied migrant children. An analytic review is provided of existing immigration policies in the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, highlighting the competing paradigms created by missions of security‐focused policy versus child‐centred policy. A close examination of the values that influenced policy development in this area is included, along with a discussion of how social work practice can infuse elements of social justice into immigration policy reform. Areas for future research to reform immigration policy focused on supporting unaccompanied undocumented minors are highlighted.


Human Rights and Child Rights

Høyesterett har i de seneste tiår gått svært langt i å tilpasse norsk rett til det europeiske/internasjonale menneskerettighetsregimet. Nyere eksempler på denne internasjonalistiske tilnærmingen er Høyesteretts tolkning av «barnets beste»-normen i Grunnloven § 104 og forsøket på å innfortolke en forholdsmessighetsbegrensning i enkelte grunnlovsbestemmelser. Etter forfatterens syn rokker grunnlovfestingen av rettighetskatalogen i 2014 og Stortingets avvisning av en forholdsmessighetsbegrensning i Grunnloven ved Høyesteretts internasjonalistiske tilnærming til norsk rett. Ved Grunnlovfestingen av menneskerettighetskatalogen åpnes det opp for et tosporet menneskerettighetsløp – et nasjonalt og et internasjonalt. Dersom Grunnloven og grunnlovgivers uttalelser skal tas på alvor, må domstolene i større grad ta hensyn til samfunnets interesse når den avgjør saker som har med menneskerettighetene å gjøre. Det vil i mange tilfeller nødvendigvis innebære at Høyesterett må våge å utfordre den individfokuserte tilnærming til menneskerettighetene som blant annet EMD oppebærer.


 Artikkelen redegjør for FNs barnekomités avsluttende merknader til Norges femte og sjette rapport om oppfølgingen av FNs barnekonvensjon i Norge. Spørsmålet om den rettskildemessige betydningen av slike merknader berøres kort innledningsvis, mens artikkelen videre redegjør for og drøfter enkelte av de konkrete merknadene fra komiteen mer inngående. Til sist reises noen spørsmål om komiteens arbeidsmetoder.


Public attitudes

Guess, A. & Coppock A. (2018). Does Counter-Attitudinal Information Causes Backlash? Results from Three Large Survey Experiments. British Journal of Political Science.

Several theoretical perspectives suggest that when individuals are exposed to counter-attitudinal evidence or arguments, their pre-existing opinions and beliefs are reinforced, resulting in a phenomenon sometimes known as ‘backlash’. This article formalizes the concept of backlash and specifies how it can be measured. It then presents the results from three survey experiments – two on Mechanical Turk and one on a nationally representative sample – that find no evidence of backlash, even under theoretically favorable conditions. While a casual reading of the literature on information processing suggests that backlash is rampant, these results indicate that it is much rarer than commonly supposed.


Public Administration and Organization

Olsen, J. P. (2018) The Bergen approach to public administration and political organization. Norsk statsvitenskapelig tidsskrift, .34(4), 188-206.

Dette essayet tar utgangspunkt i arbeidet med å bygge opp faget Offentlig administrasjon og organisasjonskunnskap i Bergen på slutten av 1960-tallet og ut over 1970-tallet, med Knut Dahl Jacobsen som “the founding father”. Arbeidet med å utforme et forskningsprogram og et utdanningstilbud tok sikte på å skape en teori-basert, empirisk tilnærming til studiet av offentlig administrasjon og politisk organisering. Dette innebar utvikling av en relativt unik kombinasjon av organisasjonsteori og demokratisk teori. Arbeidet hadde en solid forankring i statsvitenskapen, men det tok likevel form av en oppbygging av et eget fag og etter hvert et eget institutt.

I ti punkter diskuterer jeg noen av de grunnleggende premissene – teoretiske ideer, forskningsspørsmål, normative standarder og faktiske antakelser – som skulle rettferdiggjøre denne spesielle tilnærmingen til studier av offentlig administrasjon og politikk, til forskjell fra det statsvitenskap, sosiologi, økonomi og jus hadde å tilby.

Mye er forandret i løpet av det halve århundre som har gått siden oppstarten. Det gjelder både studieobjektet, organisasjonsteorien og demokratisk teori. Faget står derfor nå overfor både teoretiske og praktiske veivalg. For det første, utpensling av en faglig identitet og en akademisk profil som gjør det mulig å videreutvikle fagets teorigrunnlag og rettferdiggjøre et eget institutt. For det andre å frembringe kunnskap praktikere finner nyttig, også i situasjoner hvor det er betydelig uenighet om hva “nyttig” betyr og impliserer.

Mitt siktemål med essayet er dels å bidra til den faglig hukommelsen, og dels å bidra til en debatt om mulige veier fremover for et spennende faglig prosjekt. Mer enn noen gang er det viktig å forstå hvordan politisk-administrative organisasjon og organisering kan bidra til demokrati og sivilisert sameksistens i en turbulent verden.

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