Law, Politics and Welfare

Research focus

The main research focus of Law, Politics and Welfare is themes related to social rights, courts and legislations, state interventions and decision-making.

Puslespillbrikker med ord knyttet til temaet "politikk".

Main content

Many government decisions are of a paternalistic nature, as well as discretionary. Such state intervention is often justified with references to the common good, or that certain services or limitations on personal freedom are in the best interest of the individual.

State decisions on the best interest of a child is an example of such discretionary and paternalistic intervention. In the area of child protection in particular, the government has the power to forcefully intervene into the private lives of its citizens, and to decide what is in their best interest. The families and cases are never the exact same - making discretionary reasoning necessary.

Child protection is a particular focus of the research group. Understanding how professionals in different states decide what is in the best interest of a child is essential for understanding mechanisms of both discretion and paternalism. By examining how decisions regarding the child's best interest are made, the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism aims to unlock the black hole of discretion in the welfare state.

Why study discretion and paternalism?

State interventions based on discretionary reasoning are critical decisions, with major consequences for the individuals and families involved. As discretionary decision-making may be arbitrary, it has the potential of challenging the rule of law and legitimate use of power. However, we have little knowledge about how discretionary reasoning is done, and how discretionary decisions and paternalistic behavior is justified.

Knowledge about discretion and paternalism is central to gaining a better understanding of the relationship between the state and its citizens; a key topic both in the social sciences and in the public debate.

Other focus areas 

  • Child welfare systems
  • The welfare state
  • Children's rights
  • Public services
  • Court systems 
  • Public opinion
  • Gloalization


The research group members are well trained in methodology, and has extensive experience in comparative analysis and country system comparisons.

Multilevel data sources
- Decision-makers
- Regulations 
- Court judgements
- Citizens 

Multiple research methods
- Interviews 
- Observation
- Text analysis
- Survey vignettes
- Survey experiments 

The members of the research group are currently involved in projects using empirical data from Europe, Africa and America.

More information

You can read more about our research and get inspiration for your master's or doctorate degree at discretion.uib.no