Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Citizens’ views of child protection and the state: Welfare state theory, values, and risk

This project aims to study the normative basis for limiting parents’ freedom by examining citizens’ attitudes about the child´s best interests and thresholds for child protection intervention.

Strong critiques of child protection interventions are regularly found in the mass and- social media, and the legitimacy of child protection systems is challenged both in the U.S. and in Norway. One reason is that interventions into the family and restrictions on parental rights are considered some of the most invasive and consequential decisions a state can make.

To study the normative basis for limiting parents’ freedom, this project will use survey experiments and vignettes to examine casual factors about normative beliefs. Norway and the USA are ideal cases for studying this topic, as they represent two different welfare state models.

The project will offer a new contribution toward closing the knowledge gap regarding citizens’ attitudes about child protection and findings will have the potential to inform child welfare policy within the U.S. and Norway, as well as in other high-income countries and internationally.


Project period

  • August 2019 – June 2020



  • Norway
  • USA

Research team