Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Principal investigator

Prof. Marit Skivenes

Marit Skivenes is a professor at the Department of Government and the director of Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism, University of Bergen. Skivenes heads the commission for the Official Norwegian Report on improved quality and legal protection in child protection (2021-2023). She is recognised as a leading expert in the field of child protection systems, with numerous publications in well-regarded journals. She is also a popular lecturer and a widely used expert by the media.

Skivenes completed her PhD in Political Science at the University of Bergen in 2002. Post PhD, she worked two years as a researcher at the research institute “Fafo” in Oslo. Later she spent three years at the Centre for Child Welfare at the Faculty of Psychology (UiB), as associate professor and head of the Centre. She then continued to work three years at the Department of Social Education at Bergen University College, first as an associate professor and later as a professor.

In 2016, Skivenes received the prestigious Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council to conduct ground-breaking research on discretionary decision-making. Marit Skivenes and Katrin Kriz was awarded the ISW prize for best article published in 2015 with the article “Challenges for marginalized minority parents in different welfare systems: Child welfare workers’ perspectives“.

For complete overview of all of prof. Skivenes’ publications, please go to the Cristin-database. For list of all publications from the Centre, please go to Publications.

Open Access Publications

Peer-reviewed articles

Book chapters


For complete overview of all of prof. Skivenes’ contributions, please go to the Cristin-database. For list of all popular science contributions from the Centre, please go to Popular Science.

Keynote speaker


  • Key note speaker at the 15th International EUSARF Conference “All Children, All Families. Promoting Excellence in Child Welfare Research, Policy and Practice”. 2018-10-03 – 2018-10-05. Porto, Portugal.
  • Plenary speaker at the international conference “Decision Making in Child and Adult Protection: Discretion and Dialogue“. 2018-05-31 – 2018-06-02. Basel, Switzerland.
  • Key note speaker at the 3rd Annual International ERCPAMM Seminar “Research, social policy and action with migrant minors”, Title: «Children across borders: Rights and policies». 2018-04-25 – 2018-04-27. Melilla, Spain.
  • Keynote speaker at the 8th ESFR Conference “Changing Family Relations – Gender and Generations”; 2016-08-31 – 2016-09-03. Dortmund, Germany.
  • Keynote speaker at the Nordic Congress on Child Welfare; 2015-08-26 – 2015-08-28. Turko, Finland.
  • Keynote speaker at the 25th Anniversary Conference of UNs Child Convention – “Protection of children against violence and sexual abuse”; 2014-11-10. Oslo, Norway.
  • Plenary lecture at the 13th ISPCAN European Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect; 2013-09-15 – 2013 09-18. Dublin, Ireland.
  • Plenary lecture at the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs’ conference “Oppvekstkonferansen 2012”; 2012-10-24. Oslo, Norway.
  • Plenary lecture at UNIFEC Conference: “A Better Way to Protect ALL Children: The theory and practice of child protection systems”; 2012-11-13 – 2012-11-16. New Delhi, India

Commentaries in Media


Marit Skivenes does also regularly publish blog posts at discretion.uib.no

Media contributions


Prof. Skivenes is unfortunately not able to accept new students at the moment. Students who wish to be affiliated with any of her projects are welcome to send an email to marit.skivenes@uib.no.

PhD-students under supervision

  • Frøydis Petersen Jensen, project (UiB): Facilitating children’s participation in child protection
  • Mathea Loen, project (UiB): Legitimacy Challenges: Participation in Public Debate
  • Hanne Skoe Cederkvist, project (County Social Welfare Board): Children’s right to participation in the County Social Welfare Boards
  • Barbara Ruiken, project (UiB): Understanding risk and protective factors in child’s best interest decisions
  • Irene Aase Kvåle, project (HVL): Priorities in Child Protection and Health Services
  • Audun Løvlie, project (UiB): Accepting Care Orders: Expertise as premise-provider
  • Inger Kristin Heggdalsvik, social work, HVL: High-risk family conflicts
  • Ida B. Juhasz, project (UiB): Removals of new-borns in Norway and England
  • Line Sørsdal, project (UiB): Decision Making about best interests

Master’s students under supervision:

  • Tanja Maria Gummedal (UiB)


  • AORG 908 Effects of Lawfare: Courts and law as battlegrounds for social change
  • AORG 907 Introduction to Systematic Review and the use of SR in Social Science
  • AORG 350 Master’s thesis in Administration and Organization Theory
  • AORG 332 Research design
  • AORG 325 Discretion and paternalism
  • AORG 250 Bachelor’s Thesis (2013 – 2017)
  • AORG 104 Political Theory and Democratic Governance (2013 – 2014)
  • AORG 100 Introductory Course in Administration and Organization Theory (2013 – 2014)


Previous projects

  • Principal Investigator for the research project «Adoption as a Child Welfare Measure» [Adopsjon som et barnevernstiltak, in Norwegian] (Marit Skivenes, Hege Helland, Øyvind Tefre), The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs. 2016-2019.
  • Principal investigator in the research project “Legitimacy and Fallibility in Child Welfare Services – A Cross-Country Study of Decision-Making” (Marit Skivenes, Tarja Pösö, Jill Berrick, Jonathan Dickens, Anne-Mette Magnussen, Line Sørsdal), The Norwegian Research Council (VAM) 2012- 2017.
  • Principal Investigator for the research project “The Norwegian Child Welfare System in a Comparative Perspective” (Marit Skivenes, Katrin Kriz, Heidi Skramstad, Øyvind Tefre, Milfrid Tonheim), The Norwegian Research Council (FRISAM) 2010-2017.
  • Volume co-author (togheter with Jill Berrick and Neil Gilbert) on “Handbook on Comparative Child Welfare Policy» as part of the Oxford University Press International Social Policy Library. 2016-2019.
  • Book project: “Children´s participation in child protection – street level bureaucrats exercise of discretion” (Marit Skivenes, Katrin Kriz). 2016-2018.
  • Book project: Co-editor (Together with Malcolm Langford and Karl Harald Søvig) “Measuring Child Rights in Norway”. Universitetsforlaget. 2016-2017




  • Member of the working group for the Quality in Research Strategy at UiB
  • Leader of the working group for research in the Government’s Barnunge21 strategy
  • Organizer of the fourth “Colloquium on the United Nations Covention on the Rights of the Child Implementation Project (CRC-IP)” together with Karl Harald Søvig. Funded by the Norwegian Research Council (VAM). April 2017.
  • Deputy Chair for the research group “Politics, Governance and Innovation”, Dept. of Administration and Organization Theory, UiB. (2013 – 2015)
  • Member of the Committee for Education, Dept. of Administration and Organization Theory, UiB. (2012 – 2013)
  • Board member, Research Group “Productive Disruptions”, Bergen University College (2010 – 2018)
  • Board member of the Department Board, Dept. of Education and Health, UiB. (2006 – 2007)
  • Member of reference group for the thematic paper, “Protecting Children from Violence”, to be presented to Governments of Asia-Pacific at the Third High Level Meeting for Cooperation on Child Rights. 2016. Engaged by the “Child protection section”, for Regional Office for South Asia, UNICEF.
  • Member of the evaluation committee on the “The Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development”, engaged by the Norwegian Governments, Ministry of children, equality and social inclusion.
  • Member of the reference group for the paper “Towards a Typology for Child Protection Systems”, 2013-2014, engaged by the “Child Protection Section”, NY, UNICEF.

Marit Skivenes is the principal investigator and chair of the pro bono group at the centre, who conducts research on children’s rights. Read more

Theoretical focus: Argumentation Theory – Deliberative Democracy – Discretion and decision-making in Organizations – Freedom of Speech – Paternalism and Welfare – Political Theory – Quality of Public Administration.

Empirical research themes: Access to public information, Child’s Interests, Child Protection Systems, Child´s Rights, Decision-Making Proceedings,  Migration, Public Debate, Public Policy formation, Transparency, Welfare State Systems, Whistle-Blowing, Wrongdoing in Organizations.

Marit Skivenes was awarded the prestigous ERC Consolidator Grant in 2016 for her research project DISCRETION. Read more about this here.

Marit Skivenes and Katrin Kriz were awarded the ISW prize for best article published in 2015 with the article “Challenges for marginalized minority parents in different welfare systems: Child welfare workers’ perspectives“.

Prof. Skivenes giving a short presentation on the Norwegian child welfare system (in Norwegian)

Get to know Marit

What are you working on at the moment?

We just completed a possible over-ambitious project with an International Handbook on Child Protection Systems with contributors from over 50 countries! Madness, but thanks to fantastic co-editors, Jill Berrick and Neil Gilbert, it has been super-fun. We are also in the midst of analysing over 350 judgments form eight countries, which showing some very promising results.

Where are you best able to think?

Many places. I like variation, and I have some favorite cafes in which I can have coffee and work very concentrated. But, my office at the university is a good spot and likewise my workspace at home – although, due to the Covid-19 its been too much home office.

What does your workspace look like?

Right now, I am working from home, switching between my desk and my youngest´s home-schooling desk. My workplace often is a big mess. Always too many things going on, and I do not put things back in its place (which is hard to admit, as I would really like to be an orderly person).

How does a typical day at work look like for you?

In these times, up early, get some hours work before my boys are up. My youngest still have 50% home-schooling, so depending on which day it is: either a) after the 7th grader is out of the door, we start studying and after a short time its basket and gardening. Or, b) a full day of writing and reading, and the occasional zoom with my team (who I miss sooooo much).

 What is the best thing about your job?

Supervising students and teaching classes, working with smart and energetic research colleagues, developing new ideas and finding solutions to problems.

… and the worst?

Ha, ha, I will not go there.

Is there a specific book within your field you’d recommend?

Yes, Communicative Action by Jürgen Habermas. For me, that was a turning point in my research career.

If you had to choose a different field, what would it be?

Hmm, difficult – clearly there are many very interesting jobs. Maybe an investigative journalist, or an Ombudsman for Children, or lead the charity work of a really, really wealthy organization.

Is there a TV-show you are binging?

Yes, our favorite is Ted Lasso. Super-fun, warm and a show for the whole family. We all love it!!

Which podcast are you listening to right now and why?

Well, here I am in between. The Daily from New York times is good. “Politisk kvarter” keeps me oriented on the Norwegian stuff, together with Aftenpodden. And, not as often as before, I listen to Real Time with Bill Maher, WTF with Marc Maron and Here is the Thing with Alec Baldwin.

Who would you take with you on a desert island?

Actually, some years back I did end up at a deserted island, at Cuba – we were diving and were taken to an Island. Beautiful, and totally empty – not a single person – only rows of empty beach beds. Very strange, we were told that this place was only allowed for cruise boat tourists (and the occasional diver boat as us that sneaked in).

But, returning to the question, for a deserted island I would be selfish and bring all my boys, including the cats. Make it a family happening, and an opportunity for us all to build character.

Your friend sets you up on a date with someone famous – who do you hope turns up?

Clearly, there are many: I used to say that number one would be Ricky Gervais, as he is extremely funny and has an exceptional ability to observe people’s peculiarities. But, after being at his show in Spectrum, Oslo, which was not smart and funny, he has been pushed down on the list.

Now, I would hope for Trevor Noah, the host of the Daily Show – enormously funny and smart, and then its Jerry Seinfeld of course, and John Oliver, and Samantha Bee, and John Stewart and, not to forget my longtime favorite Stephen Colbert.

Finally: What’s on your nightstand?

Just one book, in Norwegian, Abid Raja’s “Min Skyld” (ENG: “My Fault”). Raja is a well-known politician in Norway, and also the Minister of Culture and Equality (2021), and in this book he describes how he was raised in a family that neglected his congenital injury, parents that were not expressing love and care, and a father that beat him regularly. It was a childhood of maltreatment and much misery, and at age 15 the child protection system got involved. It is brave to write this book, and huge kudos to Raja for sharing his life experiences and with the hope that increased knowledge about childhood experiences will make all people aware that child abuse is not acceptable.


Updated Summer 2021

Foto: Eivind Senneset, UiB
Foto: Eivind Senneset, UiB

Research focus

  • Child protection and child welfare systems
  • Discretion
  • Children’s rights
  • Decision-making
  • Deliberative Democracy
  • Welfare state
  • Political Theory

Contact information

Email address:



+47 959 24 979

Visitor address:

Department of Government

Christiesgt. 17, 5007 Bergen

Postal address:

P.O. box: 7802, 5007 BERGEN




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