Mathea Loen's picture
Eivind Senneset, UiB
  • E-mailmathea.loen@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 21 52+47 55582152
  • Visitor Address
    Christies gate 17
    5007 Bergen
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7802
    5020 Bergen
Academic article
  • Show author(s) (2023). Legitimate child protection interventions and the dimension of confidence: A comparative analysis of populations views in six European countries. Journal of Social Policy. 1-20.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Constitutionalising the Right to Water in Kenya and Slovenia: Domestic Drivers, Opportunity Structures, and Transnational Norm Entrepreneurs. Water. 21 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2024). Norm adherence, trust, and citizens’ compliance: Exploring citizens’ attitudes to public welfare institutions across Europe.
  • Show author(s) (2022). The International Anti-Liberal Right Versus Barnevernet?
  • Show author(s) (2021). Religious/conservative movements and fake news.
Popular scientific lecture
  • Show author(s) (2022). The International Anti-Liberal Right Versus Barnevernet.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Water, Inequality and Rights.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Master’s Week: The Right to Water in National Constitutions.
Academic lecture
  • Show author(s) (2023). The value of responsibility, certainty, and child rights for supporting state intervention in the family – an empirical study of populations in six European countries.
Masters thesis
  • Show author(s) (2020). Constitutionalising Rights to Water and Sanitation: International Norm Diffusion or Local Politics?

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)

2020-2025 Legitimacy Challenges

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.


About my PhD project

My PhD project is part of the Legitimacy Challenges project at the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism at UiB. The research project aims to identify conditions and mechanisms for sustaining legitimacy in the child protection service, and to gain understanding of the debates about children’s rights, child protection and family values. My project will particularly focus on mapping the opinions, views, and discourses of the child protection service among citizens in general and opponents and proponents.

States can place restrictions on individual freedoms, including parental freedom when children’s safety or best interest are at risk. However, state interventions such as restricting parental rights by removing children from their children are severe examples of paternalism, and ought to be legitimate in the population. Recently, Norway has been subject to harsh criticism related to the child protection service and protection of children’s rights. This criticism is extensive, it comes in the form of demonstrations, protests, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the media. Especially, the surge of religious and ultra-conservative organisations that work towards influencing politicians and citizens constitute an interesting phenomenon whose organisation and strategies we know little about. These critics question the legitimacy of the child protection service and children’s rights, and represent the legitimacy challenges we are concerned with in this project. As for the mechanisms that build or erode legitimacy, the project focuses on the deliberative aspect of decision making, and I am implementing literature on moral convergence between citizens and decision-makers.

My project focuses on legitimacy perceptions in populations in the six country cases (Norway, Finland, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, and United Kingdom), and legitimacy perceptions among opponents and proponents in the debate about child protection service, children’s rights, and family values. I work on identifying and examining the mechanisms for legitimacy towards the child protection service, and I seek to explain the difference in legitimacy levels across time and space. I rely on a magnitude of data and methods including population surveys, discourse analysis and topic modelling from (social) media, legal documents, and documents written by proponents and opponents.