Although some attempts are being made to increase children’s participation in Norwegian child protection cases, much needs to be done in order to comply with the participation principle in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This paper reports on a study of factors that are likely to predict if social workers will attempt to give children an effective voice in decision making processes. 53 child protection case managers and 33 social work students participated in a questionnaire survey in which they were asked to agree or disagree with 20 statements about child participation. Statistical factor analysis was used in order to identify underlying factors in the dataset. The results suggest three main reasons for children not being allowed to participate: communication difficulties (communication factor); because child participation was not deemed necessary (participation advocacy factor); or that participation was considered inappropriate because it might be harmful (protectionism factor). This research suggests that, if we are to improve participation within the child protection system, formal regulations and guidelines need to be accompanied by a greater attention to development of social work skills in working with children through participatory processes. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.