In the best interest of the child?

Restricting interaction between children and their legal guardians is a big decision, with significant consequences. This project examines the ethical and legal challenges that the social services encounter when making these decisions "in the best interest of the child".

  • Period: 2024-01-01 – 2026-12-31
  • Budget: 5,600,000 SEK
  • Funder: Swedish Research Council

Ethical, legal and empirical assessments of decisions in social service to restrict social contact

Socialworkers are tasked with making decisions about restricting children's and their legal guardians' right to socialisation. This should be done according to the principle of the child's best interest. These decisions are big and have significant consequences for the people involved. But there is very little interdisciplinary research into this principle, and how it is understood and applied by socialworkers in this decision-making context. This research project aims to answer this question. Involving socialworkers as research partners to develop recommendations and tools to support decision-making.

The researchers will identify and assess the legal and ethical principles and values that underpin the notion of the best interest of the child, identify how social workers in Sweden understand and apply the notion of the best interest of the child in the context of making decisions about restricting children’s contact with their parents, formulate the most reasonable ethical and legal requirements for making decisions guided by the best interest of the child in social care and develop the first stages of an intervention that in may inform and support decisions in social care.

By using methods of legal science, analytic philosophy, qualitative and quantitative empirical methodology and social interventions, the results will be relevant to scholars in different fields as well as to social workers and other stakeholders.

  • Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
  • Umeå University, Sweden
  • Mälardalens University, Sweden
  • Lunds University, Sweden

People in the project

Co-investigators: Ulrik Kihlbom, Karolinska Institutet , Ida Asplund, Umeå University, Martin Bergström, Lund University, William Bülow O'Nils, Uppsala University's Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics, Gert Helgesson, Karolinska Institutet, Karin Schölin Bywall, Mälardalen University
Further members can be found in the University directory.