When Mum and Dad decide – negative social control

19.11.19 | News
Negative social control violates the freedom of children and young people to choose their friends, education and jobs. It needs to be prevented and stopped, according to the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Integration Conference.

“Negative social control and honour-related violence restrict the ability of individuals to live a free and independent life,” the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Paula Lehtomäki, said in her opening speech at the two-day conference. Negative social control is high on the Nordic agenda for several reasons. It restricts individual freedom and prevents social integration.    

Negative social control as a concept

The concept of negative social control covers systematic attempts to enforce norms –including in the family – that restrict individual freedom and rights under the law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Examples include depriving young people of their right to work, to take an education, have friends, enjoy hobbies, choose a partner and acknowledge their sexuality – all of which are considered basic rights in the Nordic Region. Negative social control can lead to honour-related psychological and physical violence.   

Negative social control and honour-related violence restrict the ability of individuals to live a free and independent life.



Paula Lehtomäki, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers

Parents can exert negative social control

Negative social control is exerted in a variety of contexts and by different groups of people. The report Migration, parenting and social control was presented at the conference. One of the authors, Jon Horgen Friberg of the Institute for Labour and Social Research in Norway (FAFO) pointed out that one of the typical causes is immigrant parents bringing traditions with them to Norway that restrict the freedom of their offspring. The Norwegian authorities define these restrictions as negative social control.   

Prevention and reduction

Zainab Mushtaq of the Directorate of Integration and Diversity explained the broad range of approaches being adopted in Norway to prevent and reduce negative social control. What the measures all have in common is a clear focus on children's rights and on open communication between young people, parents and official agencies. The problem is also recognised in Sweden. Dilek Baladiz of Origo Stockholm says that they focus on training professional facilitators to set up dialogue meetings with young people about negative social control. The idea is to make young people aware of the problem and give them the tools to cope with it. Catrine Bangum, Advisor to the Nordic Council of Ministers, stresses that sharing examples of knowledge about strategic approaches and tangible initiatives like this is a key aspect of Nordic co-operation.  

A socially sustainable Nordic Region

The Integration Conference is part of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ co-operation programme for the integration of refugees and immigrants. The conference was designed as a forum in which to share the knowledge and best practices that will help make the Nordic Region socially sustainable and competitive and benefit the 27 million people who live there.