Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Legitimacy challenges for children´s rights and the child protection system

LEGITIMACY CHALLENGES aims to reveal conditions and mechanisms for sustaining legitimacy in societies in which there is a backlash on social and political right developments.

The project will be the most comprehensive cross-country study ever undertaken on this topic, and it is pioneering in its empirical and critical ambition to understand the rationale behind what seem to be a strong citizen driven mobilization against established institutions in democratic welfare states. The empirical foci are child protection interventions, child’s rights and the public debates about the Norwegian child protection system.

The Norwegian child protection system have been exposed to harsh criticism from citizen groups as well as from religious- and ultra conservative groups. At the same time Norway is consistently ranked high on all types of measures on child rights, child well-being, rule of law and confidence in the government. The critics questions the legitimacy of the child protection system and children’s rights, but are simultaneously expressing a strong mistrust in legal institutions and the normative foundations of the Nordic welfare state model.

There are huge knowledge gaps on what is going on and the rationale for the protests and critics. Furthermore, we do not know how these arguments are received by other citizens, and how governments operate and respond to the critique. There is a pressing need for knowledge about how the meaning formation in societies and the public debates are influenced by such mobilization against core government institutions, and what role this has for the legitimacy of welfare state policies.

By critically analysing the rationality of the discourses and examining and comparing the citizens’ opinions in six countries, LEGITIMACY CHALLENGES will move the research forward in our understanding of institutional legitimacy in contemporary welfare societies as well as provide new knowledge about social and political rights developments.


Project period

  • 2020 – 2025


  • Research Council of Norway


  • Norway
  • Czech Republic
  • Finland
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • United Kingdom

Research Team

Advisory Board


Internal Worksite for Book Project Participants

This project has received funding from the Research Council of Norway under the Research Programme on Welfare, Working Life and Migration (VAM II) (grant no. 302042).

Disclaimer: Publications from the project reflects only the authors’ views and the funding agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.