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:

  • Marianne Vika Hansen (UiB)
  • Marie Bruåas Hjortdahl (UiB)


  • GOV350 Masteroppgave i politikk og forvaltning (Veileder)
  • GOV323 Kvalitativ metode (Veileder)
  • GOV216 Constitutions, Courts and Politics
  • 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?

Now, I am working with a large data material on populations view on child protection thresholds, their attitudes towards poverty versus parental behavior; the role of age on children´s involvement in decisions about their own well-being; and citizens views on natural family versus social family

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, with a dog and two cats ruling the premises at home it sometimes feels a bit crowded.

What does your workspace look like?

Messy. A lot of notes and project folders. I do not put things back in its place (which is hard to admit, as I would really like to be such a person).

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

Up early, get some hours work before my boys are up. Thereafter off to the office or a café, and sometimes I just continue writing at home – depending on the flow.

 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.

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. However, it is difficult to give up the freedom that my position at the university entails with 50% research time that I can spend on whatever I wish (almost😊).

Is there a TV-show you are binging?

OMG, many, just finished “Wheel of Time”, and last semester is was f“Wednesday” on Netflix, a superb version of the Addams Family that Tim Burton has produced. Another family favorite is Ted Lasso – and we are eagerly waiting for season 3. Super-fun, warm and a show for everybody.

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

Hmm, not sure I would show up for a blind date. And with someone famous ….nah.

But, there are so many talented persons: 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 after 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 loooooongtime favorite Stephen Colbert.

Finally, what’s on your ear?

At the moment, two books, of which both are in my view highly recommended. Frist, Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum, a super-interesting book. Second, Kongen, lova og landet, by Jørn Øyrehagen Sunde – a woderous book on how an influential law – Landslova – was made in 1275(ish) in Norway.


Updated Autumn 2023

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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