Families and Family Policies in Sweden: Handbook of Family Policies Across the Globe

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A year ago I received notice that the book Handbook of Family Policies Across the Globe would be coming out in the summer of 2013. I was so elated, as Disa Bergnehr and I had spent time researching and writing a chapter of this book entitled Families and Family Policies in Sweden.


And then the book arrived and has been sitting on my bookshelf ever since, pulling it out to find sources or pretend to show-off by having my name in a book. But that’s because I know the material.

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The information in my book chapter is highly important. The chapter consists of Sweden’s family policies, ranging from domestic abuse to same-sex marriage to children’s rights to parental leave.

Anyone wanting to know more about Sweden and how it operates can easily read this chapter and get a nice overview of the benefits and struggles within Swedish family policy.

To see the abstract click here or read below.

To read an unpublished version of this book chapter click here.

To read my official book chapter and learn about all of the family policies across the globe, you can purchase the book here. The book includes reviews from 28 countries around the globe and from every continent (minus Antarctica).


Sweden is known as a social welfare state, whereby the people who reside in Sweden are entitled to certain public benefits at little or no cost to the individual. Over the past century, Sweden has reshaped its culture, growing from one of the poorest nations in Europe to a flourishing country that others emulate, especially with respect to their family policies. Sweden has developed several foundational family policies that have helped to encourage equality, while establishing a sense of individuality. Sweden has created similar rights for cohabiters/married couples, as well as for same-sex/opposite-sex couples. Parents receive a generous parental leave package, flexible employment choices, and there is a low gender wage gap, while children receive high-quality childcare, free health care, free dental care, free mental health services, and a substantial child welfare program. Swedish family policies encourage both parents to work and to help each other with household and childcare tasks. Despite the public benefits that Sweden provides for mothers, fathers, and children, there is still a need for further improvements regarding policies on domestic violence, poverty, and child welfare. Assessments of Sweden’s family policies are discussed.

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Inequalities in Parenting Support for Fathers of Young Children in Sweden: ISSOP Conference Presentation 2014

The International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health (ISSOP) Conference 2014 was held in Gothenburg, Sweden at the Nordic School for Public Health.

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While at the conference, I had one oral and one poster presentation.

The oral presentation was entitled “Inequalities in Parenting Support for Fathers of Young Children in Sweden: Looking at Child Health Centers and Parent Support Programs.

Take-home message:

Sweden prides itself on gender equality and fathers have been show to be beneficial to child development. However, the Swedish child health centers and parents support programs create barriers to father entry.

If fathers are to be involved, then we must encourage them to come; and definitely not use the same tactics with fathers as we do with mothers, as they have different needs.

To see the presentation, please click on the attached powerpoint.


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There were about 60-70 people who listened to my talk, which felt great to have such an audience. But even better, after this talk, five different people approached me to congratulate my work, share their experiences, and to network. And two more expressed their interest via email after the conference.

One man came up to shake my hand, and then stepped away. I started speaking with others who had questions for me, but noticed that he started talking to my supervisor, Anna Sarkadi.

When I finally caught up with my group (having missed lunch thanks to all of the wonderful and interested audience members), I heard what the man talked to Anna about.

“We would like Michael to come give his presentation to all of the nurses in Umeå this fall,” he said.

“But he doesn’t speak Swedish. Do you think that’ll be a problem for the nurses,” Anna replied.

“I don’t care if it’s a slight problem,” he said. “This is information they need to hear.”

Nothing makes a researcher feel better than when others say that their work is  important :)

And so I will present at the Barnhälsovårdens nationella konferens (National Child Health Conference) in October 2014.

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I also had a poster presentation. This received much less attention, as posters normally do. I had printed handouts for both my oral and my poster sessions. After 2.5 days at the conference, only 3 poster handouts had been taken.

So when I went to give my oral presentation, I figured I’d lay them out, along with the oral presentation handouts. After my oral presentation, all handouts were gone!

My poster was called “A Qualitative Study on Parental Participation and their Perceptions of the Triple P Curriculum.”

Click on the poster below:

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ISSOP is a wonderful conference if you’re in the field of social pediatrics and child health.

Click here to read about my Social Pediatrics colleagues’ presentations, click here to read about how we brought our research to the streets of Gothenburg, click here to read about the ISSOP conference overall, and click here to see the pictures of sites I saw in Gothenburg.

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Child behaviour problems, parenting behaviours and parental adjustment in mothers and fathers in Sweden

Publishing aScreen Shot 2014-07-09 at 1.59.00 PM peer-reviewed article is always important in the academic world. Not only do you get to promote yourself and your abilities, but more importantly, you get to promote your findings. Better still would be for someone to pick up your work and institute change based on your findings.

It is our hope that Swedish politicians and bureaucrats take heed of the messages within this article, and further help in providing needed support to parents who struggle with child behavior problems.

Raziye Salari was the lead author on a paper entitled Child behaviour problems, parenting behaviours and parental adjustment in mothers and fathers in Sweden. Anna Sarkadi and myself were co-authors.

The article is published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health.

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Main message:

Although Sweden is seen as a country that promotes parenting and has lots of family policies to encourage strong parent-child relationships, parents in Sweden still may struggle with child behavioral issues. Therefore, support for these parents is still needed and warranted.

To see the abstract, click here (or read below):

Aims: We aim to examine the relationship between child behavioural problems and several parental factors, particularly parental behaviours as reported by both mothers and fathers in a sample of preschool children in Sweden.

Methods: Participants were mothers and fathers of 504 3- to 5-year-olds that were recruited through preschools. They completed a set of questionnaires including the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory, Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, Parenting
Scale, Parent Problem Checklist, Dyadic Adjustment Scale and Depression Anxiety Stress Scale.

Results: Correlational analyses showed that parent-reported child behaviour problems were positively associated with ineffective parenting practices and interparental conflicts and negatively related to parental competence. Regression analyses showed that, for both mothers and fathers, higher levels of parental over-reactivity and interparental conflict over child-rearing issues and lower levels of parental satisfaction were the most salient factors in predicting their reports of disruptive child behaviour.

Conclusions: This study revealed that Swedish parents’ perceptions of their parenting is related to their ratings of child behaviour problems which therefore implies that parent training programs can be useful in addressing behavioural problems in Swedish children.


Now I can officially call myself a public health researcher!


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Ph.D. Half-time Seminar: Parenting Support for Fathers in Sweden: The Role of Child Health Centers and Parent Support Programs for Young Children

On March 30th, 2014 I completed my half-time (halvtid) seminar at Uppsala University in Sweden. The title of my half-time was called Parenting Support for Fathers in Sweden: The Role of Child Health Centers and Parent Support Programs for Young Children.

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The half-time is important: It stresses that you’re half-way completed with your Ph.D. Since you should have four publications to earn your Ph.D. in Medicine at Uppsala University, two articles should be completed (or mostly completed) before hosting your half-time.

I, Michael Wells, am in Social Pediatrics (Dr Anna Sarkadi) which is part of the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health in the Faculty of Medicine at Uppsala University.

My half-time committee including Dr. Sven Bremberg, Dr. Pia Enebrink, and Dr. Birgitta Essen.

My half-time consisted of three studies:

  • Wells, M.B., Engman, J., & Sarkadi, A. Gender equality in Swedish child health centres: An analysis of their physical environments and parental behaviours. Accepted for publication in Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies.
  • Wells, M.B., Varga, G., Kerstis, B., & Sarkadi, A. (2013). Swedish child health nurses’ views of early father involvement: A qualitative study. Acta Paediatrica, 102(7), 755-761.
  • Salari, R., Wells, M.B., & Sarkadi, A. Child behaviour problems, parenting behaviours and parental adjustment in mothers and fathers in Sweden. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. (Revise and Resubmit).

Along with that, you should have taken two compulsory courses:

  • Introduction to Doctoral Studies (1.5 credits)
  • Introduction to Scientific Research (9.0 credits).

These are the only two mandatory courses a student has to take if they are in the Faculty (Department) of Medicine.

Thankfully I not only had taken those two courses, but I had also sat through several other lectures, including a week long lesson in York, England called Foundations of Economic Evaluation in Health Care (through the York Expert Workshops found here).

Only one other requirement is needed (and to be fair, it’s only needed before graduating): the Ph.D. student should also attend conferences, presenting at least two posters and one oral presentation. Thankfully I had completed this requirement, and therefore don’t need to worry about that before graduating (although I will still go to many more, as I love presenting my research and spreading the word about gender equality in Sweden).

Months before your half-time, your supervisor should select three committee members. This is because people are quite busy and trying to book them last minute can be quite tedious and even cause delays. These three committee members may or may not be at your Ph.D. defense, but they will provide valuable insight into your research by challenging your research, as well as providing guidance as you move forward with your final studies and framing the four manuscripts into a logical story (e.g. the red thread).

To see the official list (in Swedish) of the guidelines for half-time, click here (these may be specific to Women’s and Children’s Health, but provide good overall advice as well).

A Basic Breakdown of the Guidelines:

Three weeks before your half-time, you should email your kappa (aka jacka–as a jacka is jacket, while a kappa [your actual Ph.D. defense book] refers to a long overcoat; hence jacka is used as a funny term to describe being half-way completed) to your three committee members. Your jacka/kappa contains two things:

  1. The Jacka: This is a manuscript telling the story of your research, including your published studies, and a discussion and future research section. When writing the jacka/kappa, the Introduction should frame your studies into the larger picture of where your studies fit. Your studies, especially the Methods and Results sections are then added into the jacka, but severely trimmed down: so that they don’t exactly repeat what the articles say, but still can stand on their own, possessing all of the really important information from your studies. The Discussion section should be next, followed by a Future Research section, which typically highlights your other papers that will comprise your Ph.D. defense. These are added in so that the half-time committee can understand how all of the studies tie together, as well as provide advice on the additional papers. A basic abstract is warranted on each manuscript in the Future Research section.
  2. Attach the full-length studies your half-time is based on (whether actually published or in manuscript form). This is done so that the half-time committee may read more specifically what you have done. All three committee members may or may not fully read your actual articles, which is why the jacka is so important.

About a week before the half-time defense, your half-time is made public (i.e. university emails are sent out reminding everyone of your seminar and when and where it’s located). People may or may not show up.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 12.29.04 AMPreparing for your half-time is extremely important; after all, you’re representing your supervisors, your research team, and of course yourself. Plus, making good impressions on your committee may help lead to further job prospects. Dr Raziye Salari helped me tremendously in preparing for my half-time, especially in understanding my statistics on a deeper level (specific statistics questions may or may not be asked, but confidence levels sure rise if a greater level of understanding is achieved [aka learn as much as you can]). But to see a list of the Top 10 most frequently asked questions, click here. Knowing the answers to these questions will greatly help when preparing for your half-time or a Ph.D. defense!

The total half-time defense lasts for about three hours. The day of the half-time consists of several things:

  1. Make sure lunch and fika (snacks) are ordered as appropriate
  2. Give a 20 (to 30) minute presentation to the general public and your 3 committee members
  3. Defend your thesis and participate in a constructive research dialogue with your 3 committee members in front of the general public for about an hour and 45 minutes
  4. Committee members meet privately with your supervisor and co-supervisors to discuss your progress
  5. Committee members meet privately to decide if you’ve passed your half-time
  6. Your supervisor is notified by the committee members, who then informs you of the decision
  7. Pay raise is given :)

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Attached here are my powerpoint slides, as well as my half-time jacka (even with the various editing errors that I realized after I had sent it out).

Parenting Support for Fathers in Sweden Half Time Jacka

Parenting Support for Fathers in Sweden Half-time Jacka Pdf



After the committee deliberation, I found out that I had passed my half-time!


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Presenting at the 16th Annual Helping Families Change Conference: Bringing Swedish Lessons to Australia

I recently had the opportunity to present some of my research findings at the 16th Annual Helping Families Change Conference (HFCC) in Sydney, Australia. In order to see a list of all the presentations, along with most of their respective powerpoints, click on this HFCC link or click here to read presenters’ abstracts.

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The symposium I was in was called Parenting in a Cross-Cultural Context, and I was able to present next to Dr Rachel Calam from the University of Manchester and PhD Candidate Konstantinos Foskolos (his ResearchGate link) from Oxford University. Another researcher, Dr Susan Stern from the University of Toronto was supposed to present her findings, but unfortunately she fell ill right before the conference.


Dr Calam was presenting on behalf of one of her students who couldn’t make it to the conference. They had completed an RCT in central America, showing that parents (mothers) who received Triple P could benefit from the program.


Konstantinos Foskolos presented his findings from his RCT on Cypriot parents (mothers) receiving Triple P, although some of the findings were not significant.

Below is his powerpoint presentation (click on it to open the full powerpoint):

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I, Michael Wells, along with Dr Raziye Salari presented findings on which background factors mothers and fathers have when comparing those who do and do not participate in a universally-offered, practitioner-led parent support program (Triple P).

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As it turns out from our Swedish sample, mothers possessed 5 characteristics that made them more likely to participate: 1) if they were born in Sweden, 2) had a college degree, 3) were overreactive with their parenting, 4) had a boy, and 5) if they perceived their child as having behavior problems.

Fathers were more likely to participate if they perceived themselves as stressed and if they perceived emotional problems in their children.

Clearly mothers and fathers participated for different reasons. Therefore, when marketing a parent support program or when giving the intervention, practitioners should be aware of the parents’ different needs, especially if trying to recruit and retain fathers.

In other words, just talking about behavior problems in children will not get fathers in the door nor keep them attending sessions–as they are not concerned with this problem, mothers are. Fathers would like more information on how to manage children’s emotional problems.

Additionally, we found that the more background factors a parent had, the more likely they were to attend. Therefore, if mothers were only struggling with behavior problems, but did not have a college degree, were from another country, had a girl, and didn’t overreact when managing their child’s behaviors, then they weren’t likely to attend, even though they could still benefit from the program.

Therefore universally-offered programs may be reaching the parents most in need, but that doesn’t mean they’re reaching all of the parents in need.


In another symposium entitled Implementation Issues: Current and Future Issues of Significance, my co-researcher, Dr Raziye Salari, gave a presentation. 

Dr Raziye Salari also gave a presentation on marketing parenting programs to families through online advertisements. One picture had a preventative message, while the other showed a promotion ad. The prevention picture is highlighted by a child giving “the finger” while the promotion ad is highlighted by a child giving the peace sign–with the idea being that you either don’t want this to happen to your child or come get the skills so that life can go well.

Dr Salari and her co-researcher, Anna Backman, concluded that while the prevention ad receives more clicks, neither program is more likely to have parents actually sign-up for the parent support program; These findings are contrary to the theoretical work that these researchers found, where parents stated that they would be more likely to join if they saw the promotion ad.

However, both ads may attract different parents, and therefore both types of ads should be used when trying to promote a parent support program to parents.

Click here to read about the conference as a whole.

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16th Annual Helping Families Change Conference 2014: Sydney, Australia

The 16th Annual Helping Families Change Conference (HFCC) was held on February 19th – 21st, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.

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After receiving a travel grant from FORTE, I was on my way to the land down under. I attended the actual conference (2 days), while sadly, missing the day prior to the conference; the workshop.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 1.12.05 PMThis was sad, as I had heard several people talk about how amazing the talks were; and for me, I wish I was able to hear the talk on father involvement (a talk that at least 7 people told me was great to listen to) given by Dr Louise Keown and Tenille Frank (PhD Candidate).

The Audience: About 300 researchers, practitioners, and policy makers attended the conference. Most speakers appeared to be researchers, while most audience members seemed to be practitioners (with a few policy makers sprinkled in). People were very easy to talk to, friendly, and helpful!

Peculiar Phrases: An interesting outsiders note was that nearly every keynote speaker gave a nod to the indigenous people of Australia. I found it peculiar to thank the indigenous population for allowing research to occur on their land–after all, most Australians were born in Australia. Click here to read a bit about Australia and their reconciliation ideas for past wrong-doings.

Another interesting factoid was that nearly all speakers said “Parent support programs, like Triple P,…” It was just peculiar to constantly hear that phrase repeated.


Keynote Speakers: The conference had a number of keynote speakers, and they were, as a whole, quite good at discussing research, while speaking in practical tones and relating the importance of the findings to practitioners. Really, a great way to connect with all members of the audience. To see the keynote speakers’ powerpoints (and nearly every other presenters’ powerpoints) click this HFCC website.

In fact the whole first half of each day was devoted to keynote speakers. To see a pdf list of all of the keynote speakers and the titles of their talks click here and click here to see a pdf of everyone’s names and abstracts. Or consequently, you can click here to see the webpage with all of the abstracts.

20140219_233204Being a conference that promotes Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, Dr Matthew Sanders spoke, both at the workshop and as a keynote speaker, and is fantastic to listen to. He, perhaps giving a nod to some of my co-researchers in Sweden, spoke about the past, present, and future of parent training programs, and specifically talked for a while on the cost-effectiveness of a population shift.

20140220_013020Another wonderful talk was given by Dr Rachel Calam from the University of Manchester speaking about reaching vulnerable families.

The Venue: HFCC was held at the Sheraton in Sydney–a very lovely hotel, with fast internet, and amazing food. In fact, I can honestly say that we were served the best seafood, salads, meats, and desserts that I’ve ever had at a conference! It was served buffet style (always risky on quality), the food was quite good quality…and never-ending.


Posters and Symposium: Since half of the day was spent listening to keynote speakers and the other half listening to symposiums, there weren’t many posters, and posters, although on display during the whole conference, were only subject for review during lunch. And therefore, I felt that the posters weren’t given a lot of respect.


Having said that, I noticed a unique feature about the posters–it was really hard to find a poster that just discussed one study. Most of the posters were either grouped studies or were theoretical/methodological. In other words, if you want to present your findings on a particular study at HFCC, give a presentation.



The symposiums were well attended, with 20-30 people listening to the symposium. Having been at conferences where the only audience are the speakers, this was great. And the audience, mostly practitioners, were quite keen on what they could take away from the talks. Therefore, the talks that were less researchy and more applicable received more attention from the audience (aka–less stats/more findings and implications).

Overall, the conference was of high quality on all accounts: organized very well, with email reminders being sent, devoted and friendly staff helping to find symposium rooms, great opportunities to network, passionate keynote speakers, and they even collected the powerpoints from the various symposiums so that others could have access to the talks after the conference. To see those powerpoints, click on this HFCC website, and then feel free to rummage through and find the talk you’re looking for :)

Click here to read about my presentation at the conference.

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Find Research Grants in Sweden Here: A List of Databases, Agencies, and Foundations

I know of several good websites to visit when searching for research grants in the US, like the National Institute of Health or the National Science Foundation.

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But after moving to Sweden, I wasn’t sure where to find grants. So I wanted to compile a list of places to find research grants, in case anyone else is having trouble finding some.

Here are some databases where you can continuously search for grants:

Länsstyrelsernas gemensamma stiftelsedatabas: Database is in Swedish.

Global Grant: A huge database in both English and Swedish (you may need a library card from someplace in Sweden to log in). If you have an Uppsala library card you can log in here and if you have a Stockholm Library card you can log in here.

If you’re at Uppsala University, you can access grants:

Through the university database here

Scholarships for research and students at UU can be found here

A scholarship handbook from Uppsala Akademiförvaltning can be found here (they also have some student housing, found here)

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Below is a composite of different agencies and foundations that give research grants.

The Government Offices of Sweden’s website (Regeringskansliet): provides a laundry list of several external funding sources–some of which will be mentioned on this site, but feel free to use Regeringskansliet website for even more potential sources!

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The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) provides grants in several disciplines, like the Humanities and Social Sciences, Medicine and Health, Educational Sciences, Natural and Engineering Sciences, Artistic Research, and Development Research.

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FORMAS: FORMAS gave our research group, heading by Dr. Anna Sarkadi, a large grant for five years. Read more about there here.

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Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences)

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Stiftelsen Allmänna Barnhuset (Children’s Welfare Foundation): Website is pretty much all in Swedish

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The Wallenberg Foundations: There’s the Marcus och Amalia Wallenberg Foundation, which focuses mainly on grants in the humanities and learning

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And there’s also the Knut och Alice Wallenberg Foundation, which focuses on natural sciences, technology, and medicine

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Forskningsrådet för hälsa, arbetsliv, och välfärd (FORTE) (Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare):

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The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT): Like their name implies, you mostly apply for grants through this foundation if you want to try to connect one university with another when doing research (although not all are about connecting universities)

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If you know of other good databases, agencies, foundations, etc that provide research grants to people living in Sweden, please feel free to leave a comment.

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First (book chapter) publication: Using Semiotics to Research Father Involvement in Sweden Child Health Care Centers

In the summer of 2008, I flew over to Sweden for the first time. In fact, I flew the day I graduated from Ohio State University with my master’s degree in Human Development and Family Science.

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I was offered a 3 month summer job doing fatherhood research for Dr Anna Sarkadi (see her blog here), Uppsala University.

I was quickly assigned to travel around Sweden in order to see why fathers weren’t visiting the Child Health Centers (Barnavårdscentral [BVC] in Swedish) as often as mothers. I went to 6 different counties; heading into cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Uppsala to rural areas like Tanumshede and in between places like Mora and Leksand.

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I set off to find out what some of the barriers and obstacles might be by interviewing nurse from the Child Health Centers on how they involve fathers, as well as assessed the waiting room environment.

Assessing the waiting room was quite novel and unique. We used a process called semiotics, which helps people to understand a picture at both its manifest and latent level. The manifest level tells exactly what’s seen in a picture, while the latent analysis tells what is meant by that picture.

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So for example, when looking at gender differences:  At the manifest level, these pictures on the bulletin board shows a woman running (physical activity), while a man is smoking (tobacco habits). The other two pictures are not of people, and therefore are excluded from this analysis. Latent: These pictures convey a positive health message about women and a negative health message about men.

Before this analysis, semiotics was just used to describe one picture. What we’ve since done was to say that an entire environment can be assessed using this technique. So we (Jonas Engman, Anna Sarkadi, and myself) analyzed each picture of men, women, and children (differentiating men from fathers and women from mothers if there were or were not children in that picture) and then tallied them up to see how many messages on the manifest level were there related to men/fathers, women/mothers, and children and then how many of those were positive or negative.

If the room was mostly equal between these three groups, then it was termed Family Oriented, meaning that all members of the family were welcome. However, if one of the family members was missing, then different terms were used such as, mother-child oriented, woman oriented, and child oriented. A fifth group was termed neutral, as there were no pictures of people on the wall within the waiting room.

My first book chapter was published with co-author Jonas Engman in the Swedish-written book Föräldrastöd i Sverige idag – Vad, När, och Hur? (Parental Support in Sweden today – What, When and How?

The book chapter is linked in here: BVC Book Chapter

An English article is forthcoming in the journal Semiotica.

If you analyzed this picture, what would be the manifest and latent analysis (viewing only the picture, not the words):

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Presenting to Swedish Pediatricians on the Fathers’ Role within Hospitals

At the end of May 2013, I was asked to give a presentation on father involvement in the international medical sphere. Click here to see that posting.

The talk was so well-received that Dr Jan Gustafsson, the head of the Department of  Women’s and Children’s Health, which is part of the Faculty of Medicine at Uppsala University, asked me to come to a Friday lunch.

I was asked to expand my talk from 20 minutes into an hour long presentation. What a great honor to highlight a topic that I’m so passionate about!

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Since I would only be speaking to pediatricians who work at the University Hospital (Akademiska Sjukhuset) in Uppsala, I tailored my lecture towards them, focusing only on Swedish medical research related to father involvement, and of course including my take on the pictures/posters/brochures that were advertised throughout their hospital and how those represent (don’t represent) fathers.

See the slides from my talk here:

Fathers in Swedish Child Health Care

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The room was packed with 20-30 pediatricians. However, they were mandated to be at my lecture, so I was a bit unsure of how intrigued they would be.

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To my chagrin, the pediatricians didn’t challenge me on how medical staff in Sweden treats fathers compared to mothers

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 1.00.51 PM(although I was challenged a couple of times on the concept of father involvement and how important their role is–despite citing literature and showing text books).

After the talk, many pediatricians asked questions and acknowledged that they didn’t treat fathers as equally as mothers.

But some who spoke stated that they wanted to change their behavior:

One pediatrician told me that she only calls the mother, except when she doesn’t have her phone number, but now would start consciously thinking about calling fathers.

Another person said “maybe we should rethink our Department name: ‘Women’s and Children’s Health’, and call it something else like ‘Family and Children’s Health.’”

Maybe nothing will change within the hospital setting, but I had done my job–provoke the pediatricians to start a discussion on increasing their responsibilities in involving fathers. Step 1 accomplished.

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Google and Father Gender Equality

There is a new UN campaign that uses Google to make a point on women’s rights by typing in simple search terms into Google (i.e. women can’t, women can, women shouldn’t, etc) and seeing what the auto-fill completes.

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Click here to see the UN Women Ad Campaign.

Naturally, as the ad campaign wanted me to feel, I felt quite appalled at the search terms people use for “women”.

As a fatherhood researcher, I wondered what search terms people use. Unfortunately there seemed to be a lot of songs about fathers, like when I type “fathers cannot” or “fathers can” I get the following responses:

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Two out of the four auto-fills for “fathers can” suggest that people search for the extent that fathers can be involved– they can “support breastfeeding” and they can “be mothers”.

Below are other findings using different search terms:

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These search terms suggest that people are still craving knowledge about the fathers’ role (e.g. “can fathers…”, as well as fighting for fathers’ rights (e.g. “fathers are…”).

However other fill-ins belittle fathers (e.g. “fathers are the curse,” “why father’s shouldn’t change diapers”).

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Surströmmingsskiva 2013 Uppsala

Ever since I moved to Sweden I have heard about eating surströmming. Sweden is historically known for their fishing industry and not the least of which is their herring.


Naturally, back in the day, they had to learn to preserve their food. So when herring is fermented, covered in salt, and canned up for periods of time, it turns into surströmming. Which isn’t the most horrible thing to eat, but the smell is something that only gets more potent by the minute and is an incredibly horrid thing to breath up your nostrils.





In fact in 2002, a Japanese study concluded that it was the worst smell among food. But people still insist on smelling it, despite the fact that the surströmming is placed far away from the table you’re eating at (look how many flies flock to this food: that can’t be a good thing). No wonder Swedes drink Schnapps and sing songs while eating this food.










Surströmming starts being sold around the third Thursday of August and thereafter people host Surströmmingsskiva. When surströmming it is known as surströmmingspremiären (the Surströmming premiere), although people from the northern parts of Sweden may eat it year round (and many urban Swedes have never tried it). Some people love it, but when I tried it with my co-workers there were five who had never eaten it and only three ate a whole sandwich.




You can eat surströmming by itself, but it’s usually served on flatbread with various toppings like potatoes, butter, sour cream/crème fraîche, and diced onions (and maybe tomatoes or dill).




To get a sense of the smell, you can view this youtube video (warning and spoiler alert, one of the guys does throw up):

Click here to see a more fun August holiday known as Kräftskiva.

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Kräftskiva (Crayfish Party) in Uppsala 2013

Kräftskiva (Crayfish Party) is a Swedish holiday that’s celebrated in August. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it doesn’t have an assigned date, which means that you can spend your whole August going to various Kräftskiva feasts. But first you need to buy Kräftskiva supplies.


Kräftskiva involves making funny hats, eating food, and drinking schnapps while singing Swedish drinking songs.


The night is livened up by singings schnapps songs (Sweden is the only Nordic country with songs about schnapps).


The meals are lighter, in that you mainly eat Kräftskiva (crayfish) with a salad, cheese, bread, and potatoes…and dessert :) You really have to work to open up the crayfish, and there’s just not a lot inside, sadly. But at least it tastes better than Sweden’s next holiday: eating surströmming. Click here to see what surströmming is all about.


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Being asked to present to Swedish doctors on father involvement

Social Pediatrics sits just beyond the others in the Faculty of Medicine (and even beyond those in the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health) at Uppsala University, both literally and figuratively.

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So, in order to help bridge that gap, Anna Sarkadi, the leader of the Social Pediatrics Research Group, thought that it would be a nice idea to bring in three presenters to speak about important topics related to health, while at the same time promoting our team by hosting the presentations and having a poster session prior to the presentations.

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One guest speaker came each month for three months to give a 20 minute presentation on some topic involving families and health. Click here to see the monthly schedule of speakers (written in Swedish and English depending on the presenters language).

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 11.45.43 AMThe first speaker was Sven Bremberg (pictured left), a huge name in Sweden, especially when talking about child health, is an Associate Professor at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

Bendeguz Nagy, a Hungarian traveller, explores the world in his wheelchair, allowing him to photograph and experience the world from a different view-point. He gave a speech on a few different cultures he encountered, highlighting through pictures the differences in family life. To see some of his pictures click here for his photography website.

The third presenter was myself, Michael Wells, who talked about father involvement within the healthcare field in Sweden and Internationally. Click here to see the slides from my presentation.

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Unfortunately, beyond our research group, only a handful of people showed up for Sven’s and Bendeguz’s talks, so I wasn’t expecting much of a crowd. So when I saw that the room was not only packed, but people were standing, I thought that this must be an important topic that Swedish medical workers care about.

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The talked reverberated with the audience, with several people afterwards giving testimonials as fathers, while workers from the hospital described how they involved (didn’t involve) fathers. Since the talk was such a hit, Jan Gustafsson, the Head of the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, asked me to come to a lunch seminar for all pediatricians in the fall of 2013 to present for an hour and 15 minutes on the topic of father involvement in healthcare.

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Tallinn, Estonia 2013: Old Town

Recently I went to a conference in Tallinn (Click here to read about the European Early Childhood Education Research Conference as a whole or here to see what I did at the conference). See what Tallinn has to offer here.

While in Tallinn, I wandered the streets of the Old Town (where Medieval costumes are a theme of Old Town life).  Within minutes you’ve seen several historic buildings.20130828_14160920130828_134620

Viru Gates (Above): 14th century towers now represent a symbol of the town and lead people from the modern city into the Old Town.

Hellemann Tower (Below): This three-story tower allows visitors to walk the 200 meter path of the wall. Over time it was a prison and weapons storage area, but today houses an art gallery. 20130830_120046

Town Hall Square & Town Hall (below): Which has the best preserved Gothic town hall in Northern Europe. 20130828_141132

Epping Tower (Below): Built in the 1470s (38 meters), this tower is now home to a museum with medieval weapons and armour. Walls are up to 4 meters thick.20130828_143634


Kiek in de Kök and Bastion Tunnels (Below): Inside the Epping Tower is a museum of the town’s fortifications and houses hidden tunnels that run under the city (about 4 Euros to enter). This has loads of fun interactive exhibits for children (and adults who like Medieval weapons will love this as well).

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Kalev Marzipan Room (Below): A historic shop/museum where marzipan creations are hand-made and displayed. I wasn’t completely thrilled at the intricacies of the designs, as I’ve seen much fancier ones made in Sweden. Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 2.03.09 PM

There are lots of churches in Tallinn.

Some of them are: 20130828_144003

 St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Above): A very Russian-looking church that was built in 1900 and it’s the most popular place to worship in Tallinn today for Russian Orthodox people.

St Nicholas' Church

St Nicholas’ Orthodox Church (Left): A church built in the 1820s.

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St Olav’s Church (right): From 1549 – 1625 this 14th century Gothic church was the tallest building in the world at 124 meters (407 feet). The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is today’s tallest building at nearly 830 meters (2722 feet).


Hotel Viru & KGB Museum: The KGB used to operate out of this hotel and today there’s a museum inside the hotel on the 23rd floor. Unfortunately though it’s not always open and you have to be aware of what times tours take place and in what language. When I was there, there were two tours per day given in English (8 Euros).

Freedom Square (Below): Notes the War of Independence that was fought during 1918-1920.


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A Quantitative Look at Preschool Teachers’ Retention: A Study on Head Start Teachers

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I was just at the 23rd EECERA Conference: Values, Culture and Contexts hosted by the European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA) in Tallinn, Estonia where I gave a presentation entitled A Quantitative Look at Preschool Teachers’ Retention: A Study on Head Start Teachers. Click here to see my presentation.

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I presented in an oral session under the heading Leadership and Quality, which felt quite fitting, as this research was completed in an effort to improve the quality of classroom instruction by motivating the leadership to make

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 10.53.59 AMneeded changes in order to keep preschool teachers teaching. My research was on head start teacher retention, and comparing those preschool teachers who stayed versus those who quit working for Head Start. I found that the reasons preschool teachers quit are due to five main factors: the center director (their boss), their stress levels, their amount of paperwork, their wanting to stay in Early Childhood Education as a career and their level of higher education.

There were two other presenters in this session: Elina Fonsen from the University of Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 3.32.20 PMTampere (Finland) who gave a presentation called “Dimensions of pedagogical leadership in Early Childhood Education and Care” and Geraldine Davis from Anglia Ruskin University (UK) talked about “Graduate Leader Plus. Making a difference beyond education.”

Elina promoted her new book chapter, while Geraldine discussed teachers’ education levels and the benefits from those who participated in Leadership Plus.

Read about the overall aspects of the conference here.

To read more about Tallinn, Estonia (and the Old Town in Tallinn) click here.

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23rd European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA)

I recently attended the 23rd European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA) Conference in Tallinn, Estonia.

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Click here to see the abstract book from the conference: EECERA abstract book

Click here to see all of the official pictures from the conference and here to see all of the Keynote speakers’ presentation slides.

There were several well-known early childhood keynote speakers at the EECERA conference. They had Marika Veisson representing the University of Tallinn, Gennadi Kravtsov, who spoke in Russian (with a translator), Nora Milotay who spoke about EU cooperation, and Nandita Chaudhary who gave a compelling talk on the state of India and family life. Nandita’s claim to fame was her concluding remarks, which are ever so poignant to researchers ears: “It is the story that matters and not the storyteller.”

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Even then Estonia Minister of Education and Research, Jaak Aaviksoo, was present.

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 1.04.20 PMHowever, Kathy Sylva from Oxford University gave the most impressive talk, in my opinion. She spoke about the quality of preschool programs within Britain and their effects over time. What made her talk particularly fun was her random fun sayings such as “the team that drinks together, thinks together.” However one critique to her talk was that it was entitled “Quality in early childhood education: Can it be international?” but she only briefly mentioned the international perspective in her concluding remarks, and choosing instead to focus on her research within a British context (“Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education” (EPPSE) project). Click here to read more about the EPPSE project.

The conference consisted of about 700 attendees from 49 countries spanning all of the continents (minus Antarctica).  The conference was on mostly qualitative research.

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 2.32.56 PMOne tidbit that I took out from the conference was when listening to Ingrid Engdahl from Stockholm University (Sweden) in the Department of Child and Youth Studies. She gave a talk entitled “Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Swedish Preschools.” In her talk she discussed how children play with dolls and which gender different professions are: police officer, nurse, teacher, doctor, etc.

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The kids noted that they said “all nurses are women” and “all police officers are men” not because they think men or women, respectively, couldn’t be in those positions, but because they, as children, have never seen the opposite sex within that position.

Read about my specific involvement in the conference here.

To read more about Tallinn, Estonia (and the Old Town of Tallinn) click here.

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Non-research life while researching

Sometimes it’s just fun to let loose and have fun at work.

In our office we love pulling pranks on each other and just generally having a good time.

Our office makes up the Social Pediatrics Research Team and each of us are a Member of that team, known as SPRTM. For our bosses going away party (she’s taking a sabbatical to Australia for half a year), we made her a powerpoint which highlights why she’ll miss us through “selling” us in a software program.

Here’s why you’ll miss us!

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Click here to see the powerpoint: Sommarmiddag

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Summer Vacation 2013: Swedish Summer Houses

During July (and part of August) Swedes take off from the city and head to their summer houses, normally located in the countryside or in the archipelago (skärgård in Swedish).

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The exodus leaves the cities empty and vulnerable to burglary; yet still, you just don’t hear about a lot of break-ins. It seems that most Swedish people have a (red colored) summer house, although quite often it’s a family house, which means that the house/cottage is divided amongst various family members–this can often cause feuds as to who gets the house when, especially since everyone takes vacation at the same time of year, or you have many people at one house; like a family reunion. In the summer of 2013, I visited several summer houses. They varied from next-to-camping cottages to luxurious houses. In other words, sometimes you had candles and outhouses and other times you had hot showers and internet. This is all dependent on how much time (and money) people want to spend investing in their summer house vs enjoying their vacation (although apparently a great many mix the two, seeing fixing a house as a vacation). 20130715_182922 This house is on Lake Mälaren, Sweden’s largest lake. The house was built in the 1600s and the island served as a private farm for the King and Queen of Sweden. Today the island is owned by one family who have since divided the island into halves. On the half that I stayed at there were four livable houses, two of which all the amenities of a modern house (running water, toilets, shower, internet), while the cottage I stayed in has been preserved and looks much like it did 400 years ago! IMG_20130720_104555 In Leksand, I stayed at another cottage that was built about 150 years ago. Both houses here have modern plumbing (toilets and shower). Sadly I saw and stayed at more summer houses but didn’t take pictures. Better luck next time.

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41st Annual Nordic Educational Research Association Conference in Iceland: Preschool Teacher Retention

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 2.37.58 PMFrom March 7th to the 9th, I was at the 41st Annual Nordic Educational Research Association Conference in Iceland (click here to read about the overall conference and the keynote speakers). The 41st annual conference website is found here.

There were about 700 people, mostly Scandinavians, at this conference. In order to present at this conference, the research must be completed either in a Scandinavian country (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, or Denmark) or the presenter must be connected to a Scandinavian institution.

Since I am a PhD student at Uppsala University, I applied and was accepted to present in 20130309_160549a symposium. A symposium is where three or four different researchers give presentations about their own research, normally with the symposium having similar talks.

My research was completed on Head Start preschool teachers and their willingness to stay or leave their employment; therefore the other people who presented with me, also discussed similar themes.

I presented a preliminary analysis on the Lead teachers in 10 Head Start preschool programs in a talk entitled “Simple Requests to Maintain High Quality Teachers- A Qualitative Study on Preschool Teacher Retention.”

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Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 2.55.10 PMThere were two Finnish researchers who also presented within the same symposium as Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 2.55.57 PMme: Sanna Honkimäki and Anne Martin. They are from the Finnish Institute for Educational Research at the University of Jyväskylä. Their research was entitled “Teachers moving to other jobs? Interviews of former teachers in Finland. Much to my surprise, they found very similar results as I did on why teachers would leave the teaching profession–where teachers are stressed, overworked, underpaid, and even in Finland, feel under-appreciated.

Another presenter, a PhD student named Anna-Carin BredmarScreen Shot 2013-03-13 at 3.00.03 PM, in our symposium was from the Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies at the University of Göteborg (Gothenburg). Her presentation was called “Teachers’ experiences of work enjoyment as an atmosphere–An empirical lifeworld phenomenological analysis.” Her talk was very interesting, as the Finns and I spoke about the negative aspects of the teaching profession, Anna-Carin Bredmar discussed the positive (enjoyment) side of teaching–aka–what motivates teachers to get up and show up for work every day.

See my other posts on Iceland by checking out Reykjavik IcelandThe Blue LagoonThe Golden CircleThe National Museum of Iceland, and Accommodations in Reykjavik (Boholt Apartments mainly).

I attended a conference called the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA). See the Keynote Speakers or my research on Preschool Teacher Retention.

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Blue Lagoon: Iceland

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 10.55.18 AMThe Blue Lagoon is a very short trip from the airport and not far from Reykjavik. Flybus takes you to and from there, and you can typically get an open ticket (stay as long as you like and catch another bus).

The lagoon is seemingly in the middle of no where, and they have created a spa-like atmosphere to highlight the tranquility of the hot spring (while maximizing their profits).




Walking down a corridor of rocks, you can feel the anticipation of the Blue Lagoon. Then you get a brief view of the hot spring before entering the modern looking building, complete with a souvenir shop (of course).

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Easily one of the best sites to see in Iceland, the lagoon 20130307_201144boasts state of the art lockers, where you use a bracelet to lock and unlock your locker.


Like many places in Europe, you have to remove your shoes prior to entering the actual lockers, but then a sign states that “they” arenot responsible if your shoes are stolen. So I just took mine off and put them in the locker instead of on the shoe wrack.

20130307_202336The Blue Lagoon has a fancier restaurant, a casual dining area, and a snack bar. The snack bar is very conveniently located right next to the hot spring, and you can charge your order to your bracelet, and then pay at the front desk when you leave–very convenient to not have to carry around a wallet. There also was a bar out in the water, but this was not open in March.

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The Blue Lagoon is about 4 – 4.5 feet deep in most places, going slightly higher or lower depending on where you are. Along the edges are seats made out of rock, while within the center of the spring there are various platforms that most people cozy up to and have a chat.

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Many people like the spring beyond the niceness of being in a large hot tub. They say it has healing powers and makes your skin look younger. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see people with various gels on their face, although not everyone does this.

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 11.38.01 AMThere is a cave, a man-made waterfall, and three sauna’s at the Blue Lagoon. The waterfall feels great to stand under, allowing the water to massage your shoulders and it sits in between the saunas (which many people didn’t realize existed, so keep your eyes peeled).

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There is a regular sauna, heated by throwing water on boiling stones, a steam sauna, and an Icelandic sauna. This Icelandic sauna is a cave that has a wooden floor and through the slits in the wood, steam rises from the heated water below, and creates a sauna. Mind your feet–if you’re not used to sauna’s, your feet can definitely feel the steam.

Here is a youtube video of the Blue Lagoon and some things it has to offer.

See my other posts on Iceland by checking out Reykjavik IcelandThe Blue LagoonThe Golden CircleThe National Museum of Iceland, and Accommodations in Reykjavik (Boholt Apartments mainly).

I attended a conference called the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA). See the Keynote Speakers or my research on Preschool Teacher Retention.

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41st Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA) Conference 2013: Keynote Speakers

20130307_174143The 41st Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA) Conference 2013 was held on March 7-9, 2013 in Reykjavik, Iceland. NERA is also knows by its Scandinavian name Nordisk Forening For Pedagogisk Forskning (NFPF).

The conference took place at the University of Iceland in their Department of Education and at the Hilton in Reykjavik. There were about 700 participants at this conference; most of whom were Scandinavian. The keynote speakers all spoke at the Hilton, while all of the other presenters spoke from the University buildings. 20130307_101036

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 10.14.31 AMDespite the two locations, the set-up was quite nice. The Hilton sat about a ten minute walk from Department of Education, allowing participants to breathe some fresh Icelandic air and take a short break from the talks. What I particularly enjoyed though was that the Keynote Speakers spoke for the first half of the day on Thursday and Friday, leaving the second half of the days and all of Saturday to the other presenters. This was beneficial in that many people listened to the keynotes and then were able to either listen to more talks or go site seeing in the afternoons.

There were four Keynote Speakers: Dr Anna Stetsenko, Dr Kristiina Kumpulainen, Dr Diane Reay, and Dr Kristjan Kristjansson. To see their (and all of the NERA participants’ abstracts) click here. To see their actual presentation slides click here.

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Stetsenko concentrated her talk on the theories of development and learning, provided a historical background to theory and where we are today with theory, and then challenged the audience to use more theory within their research.

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Kumpulainen spoke on the processes of learning and how we go about constructing learning, especially in relation to connected learning.

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Reay gave a depressing (in her words) talk on the state of education in England, paying particular attention to elite schools verse common schools and the similarities and differences between those two                                                                                                           educational systems.

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Kristjansson presented on the idea of morality in education, especially from a theoretical and philosophical perspective, ending his talk with trying to recruit partnerships from the audience on developing what “moral education” means, as well as trying to set up ways to test moral education.

See my other posts on Iceland by checking out Reykjavik IcelandThe Blue LagoonThe Golden CircleThe National Museum of Iceland, and Accommodations in Reykjavik (Boholt Apartments mainly).

I attended a conference called the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA). See the Keynote Speakers or my research on Preschool Teacher Retention.

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President Obama on Expanding Early Childhood Education in Atlanta

On Thursday, February 14th, 2012, President Obama visited a Head Start preschool in Atlanta before announcing his plan to expand preschool to all four year old who come from families in low-to-moderate income levels.

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President Obama has spoken about expanding Early Childhood Programs before, but has always been met with resistance and this is no exception, as the Republicans in the House are not pleased, saying that this will cost too much money and the effects fade out over time.

The Washington Post has a nice article about Obama’s plan, while NPR provides a nice overview of the topics via the radio. Or click here to see a video of President Obama speaking on Early Childhood Education.

Posted in Media and Families | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Sweden LOVES Recycling

Coming from the US, where you have to pay to recycle products in many areas, Sweden is a dream for people conscientious about the environment and a nightmare for people trying to learn how to dispose of their trash.


When I first came to Sweden, I was shown around the office, including an entire room that is devoted to the recycling. There is recycling for nearly everything that you’d use on 20121216_235223a daily basis! From paper-ware to cardboard to cans to tin foil to light bulbs and batteries. Even the environmentally horrifying 20121216_235352 20121216_235403 20121216_235338styrofoam has a place to be recycled. In fact, at the end of the tour, I asked “ok, but where do I throw away my trash?”

It was absolutely the smallest bin in the whole room! And mainly just used for leftover food.

Sweden’s recycling has been so successful it has had to import trash from other countries in order to power their waste-to-energy program. Read more information on that here.

On sweden.se (specifically, here) there are dozens of various green initiatives that Sweden is involved with–such as leading the EU in eating organic foods, recycling 88% of all cans, and how it gets its title as the country with the highest share of energy from renewable resources.

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Swedish Holidays: Fettisdagen (The Fat Tuesday)

Let’s be honest–most in the US know today as a normal day. The smarter than average worker knows that today is Lincoln’s Birthday, and rarer yet, that it’s Mardi Gras Carnival, known to some as Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day in the UK) isn’t a major holiday (in fact, it’s not even at the same level as Ash Wednesday), but this holiday packs some carb calories.


This is a holiday that will butter you up, literally, so you can make it through the fasting of Lent.

In Sweden, the concept is the same. Interestingly, Swedes typically eat pancakes as a type of snack/dessert (or possibly as dinner), often with whip cream and strawberries, but no syrup; but not on fettisdagen. On this day of caloric days, it’s all about the semlor (a bun with loads of almond(y) whip cream loaded on it), especially if dipped in warm milk!


Honestly, they taste ok. Nothing amazing, and not horrible (although I heard more Swedes say they dislike it than love it, but most just “enjoy” it, as opposed to love it).

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However, the semlor packs a mere 442; that’s hard to compete with most US fast food joints, where Americans splurged several times a week (let alone having it as a last caloric meal). Such as eating a McFlurry, packed with 710 calories.

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Sweden–you’ve been challenged–find a high caloric content food.

One of my personal favorites: Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae: 1660 calories! Oh so good!

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Uppsala Ice Festival (Isfestivalen)

20130215_211356Uppsala, Sweden can be a dreary cold dark place in the

20130211_170849winters. Clouds can consume the skies and the wind can numb your bones. Within this landscape of Scandinavia though, you can find majesty within the snow and ice.


It is time for the Uppsala Ice Festival (known as Isfestivalen in Swedish) where about a dozen (or more) ice sculptures are carved and left to be viewed by those transient enough to venture outdoors.

The Uppsala Kommun (Municipality) symbol along with the Isfestivalen symbol:







The ice sculptures are mainly located on Svartbäcksgatan (the pedestrian street) where the main shopping centers are, several are located in the city park (Stadsparken), two by the train station (Central Station), and some are located on a bridge crossing Uppsala’s dividing river, Fyris River (Fyrisån) (like this one).


Over the weekend the ice carvers went to work. Such as in the picture below where he carves out multiple faces throughout the ice block.

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These ice sculptures really come to life at night, as background lights brighten them, accenting their curious designs.


Here is a photo of an ice heart located in the city’s main square (Stora Torget).

Here are some of the ice sculptures from the Stadsparken (City Park):

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From theory to practice – A health economic evaluation of a parent training programme in Uppsala preschools, Sweden

At the 2013 Nordic Conference on Implementation of Evidence-Based Practice in Linköping at Linköping University (Sweden), Filipa Sampaio presented a poster entitled “From theory to practice – A health economic evaluation of a parent training programme in Uppsala preschools, Sweden.” Michael Wells (me), Inna Feldman, and Anna Sarkadi were co-authors. (read the abstract from this poster and all of the other presentations from the conference here).


Filipa, a PhD student at Uppsala University, who focuses on Health Economics in Social Pediatrics/Parenting Support in the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Faculty of Medicine, eloquently announced her findings from a health economic perspective of the Triple P–Positive Parenting Programme.

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(click here to see a pdf of the poster: poster presentation_Nordic conference_22_01_2013)

The main finding was that the Triple P program is effective at reducing child behavior and parental mental health at a relatively low cost; and investment in Triple P is self-financed after 1 year and could amount to greater financial (and resource) savings post-1 year.

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The Nordic Conference on Implementation of Evidence-Based Practice (Linköping, Sweden)

The Nordic Conference on Implementation of Evidence-Based Practice was held on February 5-6, 2013 at Linköping University in Sweden. A few hundred (mostly) researchers and (some) practitioners attended this conference where there was plenty of discussion on the state of research within the health field. The Scientific Program and the abstract (listing all of the talks and a brief summary of them) can be found here.


Most of those attending were from Sweden, but other countries such as the USA, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark (and others) were represented; therefore the conference was in English.


Easily the highlights of the conference were from the Keynote Speakers (perhaps not surprisingly).

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Trisha Greenhalgh (who loves twitter: find her here) talked about Knowledge Transfer and was easily the most thought-provoking, insightful, and articulate presenter. She presented strong support for qualitative research as a means of generating multi-layered knowledge that is rich with voices from users of services–’all knowledge is collective: Wittgenstein’s three layer: epistime, knowledge; technical and tacit knowledge; and praxis–the practical wisdom. This reminds us that “policy is a contact sport where knowledge is power.”

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Another strong speaker was Huw Davies on Organizational Change, where he displayed an excellent use of graphics in his slides with minimal text. He highlighted the challenge of process that engages with values, tacit knowledge and experience; is socially and contextually situated and shared; and may require some difficult ‘unlearning’. If we seek organizational change, then he urges us to move from a mode of simply Evidence-Based Practice to a Mode of Co-production-from bridging to dialogue, although this way can be more difficult to evaluate. Leadership is key in achieving organizational change–make sure someone’s following you.

Overall the conference was decently inspiring and will certainly grow in-depth and knowledge as it has its second annual conference.

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Handbook of Family Policies Around the Globe: Lessons from Networking

A couple of years ago I met Dr Mihaela Robila at a conference called the Society for Cross-Cultural Research Conference. By luck, or the fact that we had similar research topics, I gave a presentation with her.

We both were discussing family policy issues–hers on Eastern Europe and mine on Sweden. Two other presenters also discussed their various countries and how family policy affects them.

After the presentation Dr Robila asked if we would be interested in turning our presentations into book chapters. We all agreed that it would be a great idea, and Dr Robila went off to Springer to see if they would like to publish a book on families policies from different countries around the world.

After receiving the go-ahead (that the publisher was interested), she posted on several sites announcing the book and what the criteria would be for each chapter. For example, on the National Council on Family Relations page, she posted a flier asking for interest (and from Springer).

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 1.48.49 PMSeveral researchers responded to her call, and now a 500 page book has been created entitled Handbook of Family Policies Around the Globe. According to the publisher, Springer, the book will be available in mid-June of 2013, and is intended for scholars, researchers, and graduate students who study family policy.


The book contains information on family policies from different countries’ perspectives from 6 continents (aka, all but Antarctica). Of course it doesn’t have every single country, but it does go through dozens of them, including the chapter that I, along with Disa Bergnehr, wrote on Family Policies in Sweden.

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12th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine: Child Health Nurses Views on Father Involvement

In August/September of 2012, the 12th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine (ICBM) was held in Budapest, Hungary. The brochure of the conference and the types of presentations given at an ICBM conference is found here: ICBM

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 8.01.19 PMThe conference itself was ok. It was run efficiently enough and rooms were easy to find in order to listen to presentations. However, what made this conference fun was the location–the conference took place right next to the Castle in Budapest. In fact, there was a beer festival set out right in front of the castle for several days during the conference.

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Budapest is also quite a romantic city. The lights on the Castle and bridges at night are breathtaking. Also, moving around the city is rather simple, with lots of public transportation that is pretty cheap. However, three of my coworkers were flashed (during two different incidents) while traveling around the city–one on a tram and one while walking through a park. We were assured by locals that this was not at all common, but it was something of note that happened.

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At the ICBM conference I discussed via a poster about Swedish Child Heath Nurses Views on Father Involvement.

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Or it can also be seen in pdf form here: ICBM Nurse Interview Poster Final

Swedish Child Health nurses see an amazing 95-99% of parents of young children (aged 1-5) to analyze the child’s growth and development, provide parents with parenting resources, provide parenting advice/parenting classes, and a number of other things. However, mothers are much more likely to visit these Child Health Centers than fathers are, so I investigated why that might be from the perspective of the nurse.

Three main themes were discussed at this conference: the Child Health nurse’s own agenda, the Child Health nurses perceptions of their own role in involving fathers, and their opinion about the role of fathers. The overarching conclusion was that they appreciated and were happy to see that more fathers were starting to visit them compared to previous decades. However, they stated that they wanted to involve themselves as little as possible in actively promoting father involvement–in other words, they didn’t want to further encourage fathers to come by reaching out to fathers in any way–they mainly sat back and talked with whoever showed up at their doorstep.

Previous research has shown though that if fathers are reached out to, then they will become more involved in their child’s health care. If they are more involved, then they start to become more competent about their child’s health and therefore feel more confident in seeking answers when new issues arise, and are able to deal with their child’s health on a more regular basis than those who never attend and are not involved in their children’s health care.

If Swedish society wants fathers to be more involved, one route might be to have the Child Health nurses actively encourage father participation and involvement.

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Presenting at the 39th Annual Head Start Association Conference: Preschool Teacher Turnover Rates

At the 39th Annual Head Start Association Conference I presented on some preliminary research findings on the issue of teacher retention in a presentation called Relationships Matter: Qualitative Interviews with Head Start Preschool Teachers on Turnover Rates.

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To see the actual presentation powerpoint, click Teacher Retention Research Results NHSA.

Many, in fact, most or nearly all preschools have a problem retaining qualified teachers. Many teachers leave after a short period of time, for a number of reasons. This impacts the young child’s learning, since 1) they are constantly bombarded with new teachers and new personalities and new styles of teaching and 2) they are being taught by less experienced teachers.

Teacher retention also affects the parents. In fact, I had several parents tell me that their child had between 3-8 different preschool teachers all within a school year (depending on the parent–of course these are more extreme cases, but it does happen). And parents find it difficult to form relationships with teachers and in turn may not always be the most up-to-date on their child’s learning and what they need to work on at home.

This also greatly impacts the quality of a preschool program: 1) it’s financially costly. Hiring and training new employees is not easy and takes a lot of man hours and therefore money (not to mention all of the benefits associated with that organization, like health care, which isn’t cheap). 2) New teachers typically means less quality, as they are trying to learn how that organization operates, how the children learn and what their needs are, etc. 3) Old employees become fed-up with having to do a greater share of the workload while new employees are being hired and trained (which can take a long time to find qualified teachers)–which can create a snowball effect of having promising, qualified, experienced teachers leave due to (what some term) “workplace abuse”–where they become agitated by not being fully staffed, which impacts them in multiple ways (such as their work load or trying to take vacation).

In other words, the aim of the study was to learn why Head Start teachers would leave and what changes they want to happen in order to continue working for Head Start

So I sought out what makes preschool teachers at our 10 Head Start centers stay or leave the organization. I conducted qualitative interviews using a clustered randomized designed, where I went to each preschool and interviewed one lead and one assistant preschool teacher (all of which were chosen at random from each school) leading to a total of 10 lead and 10 assistant preschool teacher interviews.

The preliminary results showed 4 themes:

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 7.33.03 PMIn relationships matter, the more influence an individual had with a person, the more important they were towards determining if that person would stay or leave the agency, based on their relationship with that person. So for example, if they were the lead preschool teacher, their relationship with their assistant was the most important relationship in determining if they would stay or leave the agency since they spent the most time together (40+ hours per week). Their supervisor became the next important relationship, as they would typically see their supervisor daily. If they had strong relationships with these people, they typically wanted to stay (and some even stated that the only reason they are still here is because of those relationships–despite any other issues that they may have).

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 7.37.09 PM Another theme on why teachers would stay or leave the agency revolved around paperwork. Preschool teachers have a lot of paperwork to do. And Head Start teachers have more paperwork than other preschool teachers because of all of the federal guidelines. Not surprisingly then, the preschool teachers were stressed about the paperwork. However, not in the way many imagine. The teachers weren’t stressed that they had to do the paperwork. In fact many of them even thought that most or all of the paperwork was necessary and important. However, the teachers stated that they lacked the time to complete the paperwork. And it was not having built-in reflection time that made them stressed about the paperwork, as the teachers either had to do all of their paperwork while the children were in the classroom, while the children napped (which was often confounded by at least one child not sleeping and therefore needing attention, or they had to bring the paperwork home in order to complete it, which wasn’t ideal for their work or home life). Teachers suggested having a half an hour to an hour either before school or after school each day that was built in for paperwork, where children were not allowed to be there (i.e. starting school at 8am, but having teachers start work at 7:30) or to have half or all day Friday to complete their paperwork). In fact, those who had part-day classrooms had Fridays to complete their paperwork, and those in part-day classrooms were much more likely to be satisfied with the paperwork aspect and therefore stay with the company, while those in full-day classrooms never had a break to do their paperwork and were more likely to leave due to not having time to complete their paperwork.

Teachers working with children in a Head Start program are often aware of child behavior problems. There has been a lot of research to support the idea that young children have behavior problems but that those from poor/impoverished families have about three times more behavior problems than the middle-of-the-road preschool does. Teachers often complained about the severity of the behaviors, alluding to acceptable behavior problems and other problems that should be beyond the reach of any preschool teacher who is trying to teach 19 other children with only one other supporting teacher. Therefore, many teachers suggested that not every child be allowed into the program, as they simply couldn’t serve everyone’s particular needs and that some children might be better served in classrooms or schools that deal with severe behavioral problems.

Lastly, teachers required support. The teachers who stated they either received or did not need support said they would like to stay with the agency while those who needed support, requested support, but didn’t feel they had received support were more likely to state that they would leave the agency.

In addition to these four themes, all of the teachers discussed if they viewed their position as a job or a profession. As it turns out, preschool teachers in the Head Start program very much see their position as a career, albeit with some hurdles to overcome. However, they want to stay in early childcare, especially with disadvantaged children, like those in Head Start, for their whole career.

This means that if teachers leave, it’s because their needs aren’t being met, not because they didn’t want to be in this particular field. Therefore each agency should look at what needs the teachers require and then try to satisfy those needs in order to retain valuable qualified competent preschool teachers.

In this case, making sure they are paired up with leads/assistants that they communicate and get along with well, provide teachers time to complete their paperwork, reconsidering child behavior problems, and providing enough support to teachers who request it, taking their requests seriously and providing valuable, applicable feedback to their issues.

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Presenting at the 39th Annual National Head Start Association Conference: Enhancing Program Quality

I was working for a Head Start organization at the time of the 39th Annual National Head Start Association Conference in Quality Assurance. One of my job duties was to research problems within the organization and provide feedback on how to correct those problems so that the program would be of higher quality. My boss and I quickly realized that communication between our centers was a problem, since we were completely spread out over 11 locations and two counties within a major metropolitan city.

Trying to drive to all the centers wasted too much time. Conference calls were hard to coordinate and even if everyone could be on the conference call, many of them felt it hard to participate since they couldn’t see the presentations and sometimes had difficulty hearing. Plus we were in the field (i.e. at preschools) a lot and needed to update data on-site in real time.

We (my boss and I) developed a talk that helped to correct these issues, presenting a talk entitled Enhancing Program Quality: Using Technology to Assess Data and Communicate Efficiently. 

We discussed various technology tools that helped made our lives easier, figuring that other agencies may be running into a similar predicament.

We started simple, discussing Google (and Google for Non-profits).

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Some of the Google products we discussed were the Google Calendar, Google Documents (now called Google Drive), and Blogger (while simultaneously showing WordPress).

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When we used our calendars at work, we realized that we had to be on a work computer in order to update and to check them. This was nearly impossible though if we were out in the field visiting a preschool. So Google Calendar was a great solution. Since many people have smart phones today, we could easily log on using our smart phones and update the calendar as to where we are and what we’re doing, as well as see what other colleagues are doing so we know how to reach them. Everything can be color coded as well, so if you want to put different people in different colors, have a particular color for meetings or specific school locations or vacations–it’s all possible and is rather intuitive.

Google Drive is a place where you can go and upload documents. This was extremely important for us, because it allows the users to update data in real time. Moreover, you can check to see who the last person was who updated data and when they did that, so it was easy to determine how new/relevant/complete the data was. Moreover  it’s secure, as a password is required in order to log in and the person running the drive can determine who has access to the drive (and can add or remove people whenever they choose to do so).

Then we described how using blogs (through Blogger or WordPress) could be beneficial for the agency to self-promote itself to the parents, teachers, and the world about the great work that they’re doing. We also described how we used it as another medium, much like Facebook or Twitter, to inform parents about school closings or delays.

In addition to Google products, we also introduced the audience to Ustream, which is like Youtube, except that you can record for however many minutes you need to (while Youtube limits you to under 15 minutes of recording time per clip). We used this in trainings, so that if someone missed a training, it would be recorded live and they could go back and view it whenever they wanted. However, we also used it on conference calls, so people that were in another location could see us live, as we presented the material and therefore be more of a participant. This is tremendous, because now audience members could participate with us, watching us actually give the presentation rather than just hearing it on the phone. Naturally we had to grant them access, but that is easy to do once you read a little about Ustream and how it works.

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We also realized that with conference calls, people often felt leftout. That they weren’t getting the same experience as being in the room, and let’s be honest, often did other tasks (i.e. playing with email) while on the conference call. Well now we had a solution. Since our centers were so spread out and not everyone could make it to the meeting place, we actually saved the company money (in not having to pay for people to waste gas), while saving the employees time (on not having to commute back and forth and therefore stay at their center in case they were urgently needed), while making them feel like a participant by introducing them to join me. Join.me is a free site that allows you to do two things: screen share and conference call. So by signing up, they send you a “phone number” that you then pass along to anyone that you want to join the meeting (i.e. email the phone number to the participants). Then they click on the link and they are a part of join me, where you can talk to them and they can see your screen–so as you move through your presentation, they can follow along, seeing all the visuals, and hearing everything you (and others) say during the conference call.

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 7.00.25 PMAll of these products discussed are free! All saved time, money, and resources! It’s worth looking into to see if they meet the needs of your agency.

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The 39th Annual National Head Start Association Conference: The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

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In mid-April 2012 I presented two different research projects at the 39th Annual National Head Start Association Conference, hosted of course by the National Head Start Association in Nashville, TN at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (pictures taken from their websites photo gallery).

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The Gaylord Opryland was truly a spectacular venue for a conference. It wasn’t just a hotel with large rooms to accommodate a conference. There was a whole world inside the hotel. The hotel opens up with rooms surrounding the interior, much like a castle wall (although there is no resemblance to a castle wall). However, these rooms are protecting the middle of the hotel, which is filled with shops, dining, exotic looking trees, and even a lazy river, where you can rent a boat and go for a little ride (more made for families with small children than a romantic couple date, but still pretty cool. Plus there was plenty of courteous staff who were able to help you maneuver through the hotel.

The negatives to the hotel though were that you could (and will) easily become lost in the labyrinth within the hotel. After acclimating myself, I ended up having to shift between three different rooms during my stay. The first room hadn’t been cleaned and there were pizza boxes and other food and drink leftovers from the previous occupants. The second room had an amazing view of this (maybe 20 ft) waterfall.  This was great to look at from the balcony, but unfortunately  I could still hear the water crashing down even with the balcony door closed and therefore transfered to yet a third room.

However, overall, the hotel/resort is truly a nice gift to the Nashville area and worth visiting and staying at. Moreover, there are loads of shopping (and an IMAX theater) to be had within walking distance of the hotel, if you’re not satisfied with all of the shopping within the hotel.

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Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): National Averages and Region V Averages for 2010

I have written a number of posts on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). This assessment tool for early childhood education seems to be a hot topic, probably because it is often used in ECE research and because it’s mandated by Head Start (feel free to search my blog by running a search on the homepage for other CLASS blog posts for more information on CLASS, what it can do for you, how it’s used, and the benefits of CLASS).

In this installment though I would like to discuss the 2010 national averages of CLASS and the regional averages for Region V. Region V consists of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. To see the full pdf posted by http://www.ohsai.org click here.

The average CLASS scores for the Nation under the three domains are as follows:

Emotional Support:              5.35

Classroom Organization:     4.74

Instructional Support:         3.36

Region V has the CLASS averages under the three domains are as follows:

Emotional Support:              5.41

Classroom Organization:     4.76

Instructional Support:         3.54

This means that on average, Region V is doing better than the national average on all three domains. Despite the numbers being very close (i.e. Classroom Organization is 4.74 vs 4.76), remember that the smallest difference on a large scale (i.e. 10′s of thousands of children) make a big impact on our overall nation’s education scores. And so Region V should celebrate for being better than the national average! Something to be proud of! However, Illinois and Indiana are below the Regional and the National average for Emotional Support; Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan are below the Regional and National averages for Classroom Organization; and Illinois and Indiana are below the National and Regional averages for Instructional Support.

In other other words, Illinois and Indiana need to up their classroom quality. On the other hand, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are doing pretty well comparatively.

With that in mind, remember that CLASS scores are out of 7 points on all dimensions (and therefore on all three domains as well). So Instructional Support, for example, as a long way to go before we see the true potential of what excellent Early Childhood Education can accomplish.

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Corporal Punishment: Spanking, Slapping, Kicking, Biting, Scratching, Pinching

Corporal Punishment–a term referring to spanking, slapping, kicking, biting, scratching, or pinching another person (typically from a parent to a child).

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Around 95% of all children in the US have received corporal punishment at some point in their lives. Preschoolers are the most likely age group to receive corporal punishment and to receive it on a consistent basis (in fact around age 4, about 95% of those children are hit/struck at least once during the year). As children age, parents are more likely to use other discipline measures such as using rewards or consequences such as taking items away or grounding.

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Naturally there are loads of research papers out there on this perennial topic (type in any of the key phrases to scholar.google.com to find them).

Three good (and differing) articles are: Ellison and Bradshaw’s (2009) article on religious beliefs, sociopolitical ideology, and attitudes towards corporal punishment, Gershoff’s (2010) more harm than good article, and Landsford’s (2010) article on cultural differences with corporal punishment.

Perhaps because corporal punishment is so prevalent within the US, or perhaps because Americans feel they have a right to choose how to discipline their child, most people in the US argue that corporal punishment should be legal, with little to no interference from the government (until abuse starts). In fact many US parents (and people in general) feel that without spanking their child, their child will grow up to be hoodlums.

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Of course what the literature shows is that those who use corporal punishment are much more likely have children who grow up to hit others (as that’s what they’ve been taught to do when someone does something they do not approve of) (see Gershoff 2002 for more information on children’s aggression stemming from being spanked).

So far, the debate in the US has centered around the parents’ rights to discipline. But do children have rights? Should children have the right to not feel physical pain from the people who are supposed to love them the most and to whom they have to entrust with their lives and development?

Corporal punishment is a slippery slope between trying to achieve quick behavioral changes in your child and abusing your child; the line can be very thin and grey.

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Sweden, a country in Europe, has a law prohibiting the use of corporal punishment. Durrant–a widely known parenting researcher states that amongst children under five–in the US there were 723 children killed via child abuse, while only 3 in Sweden. A typical response would be because those who use corporal punishment are more likely to abuse their child (potentially killing them) than those who don’t use corporal punishment.

According to the Kids Count Data Center, Indiana, where I live, had 2,451 child abuse cases in 2010 alone (click on the link for other states).

Despite the US having more children than Sweden, Sweden still has (and historically has had) a lower rate of child abuse (based on the per capita basis). Perhaps creating children’s rights and emphasizing that children have a right to live without feeling physical pain (much like adults get to experience–since hitting an adult is called assault and is a felony), the US may have less child abuse cases.

If you need more information on spanking, please feel free to write a comment.

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Average Age at First Marriage

People are often curious about when they are supposed to get married. Other people then respond–Whenever you want! Whenever you’re ready!

But has that always been the case?

Using US statistics, infoplease.com states that in 2010, the average age at first marriage for men was 28.2 while the average age for women was 26.1.

In 1990 the average age was 26.1 for men and 23.9 for women. That’s about two years less for both men and women.

The numbers continue to drop until the 1950s, when they reached an all time low (for the modern era) with men marrying on average at age 22.8 and women at 20.3.

However, then the numbers tend to shoot back up. For example, in 1890 the average man married for the first time at age 26.1 and women at 22.0 (about the average age for men and women 100 years later!).

So why the flux of age when marrying?

Currently both men and women are attending colleges and universities and choosing to delay marriage by at least four years. Many of whom state that they want to find a job and settle in before marrying, hence waiting until their late 20s for men and mid-twenties for women.

In the 1950s though, people weren’t attending colleges and universities in the same numbers as they are today. In fact, many women did not higher education, choosing instead to be a stay at home wife or mother. Why? Because this was an era where families could support each other off of one income. Why? Because the industrial revolution had taken off, with a flurry of high paying, lower educated jobs–compared to today where the higher paying jobs require higher educations.

So why delay marriage in the 1890s? Well, the industrial revolution hadn’t yet hit. A single person couldn’t make enough money to support a spouse and children. In fact, in this era, it wasn’t uncommon for children to be working–either in the fields or in the factories. So both men and women had to work in order to support themselves, hence delaying marriage.

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Do commercials promote gender stereotypes?

The Superbowl recently came to Indianapolis in 2012 and with it came lots of funny commercials. Most of the commercials were gender neutral, that is–they showed only the product, with no people, or the commercial was about a product and an animal. This year’s Superbowl contained many commercials with dogs (and no people), for example.

M & M came out with a commercial though that most people thought was one of the best commercials during the Superbowl.

This commercial displays women talking, while one man laughs at the brown lady M & M, allegedly thinking that she’s naked. The brown M & M silences the laughing man by saying that she is just brown, not naked. Then a red male M & M enters, sees the brown M & M and thinks it’s “that kind of party” and quickly loses his outer shell, much to the dismay of the brown M & M.

The subtle meaning behind this cute and quirky commercial–women are sophisticated, out for a nice time, with glamorous gowns and glasses on, while the men are bubbling idiots, who only think sexually.

The bigger question is then asked: are commercials sexist? And do they promote gender stereotypes?

In other words are commercials more like:

“With kids, teens, pets, and husbands, ever wonder how you can keep your house clean?”      -Stanley Steemer

Or are they more equal (or at least, those who make the mess, clean the mess), like in this commercial by Clorox:

Gentry and Harrison (2010) researched this topic, finding that although the woman’s role in commercials is changing, fathers (males) are still being gender stereotyped.

What this means–in commercials and on TV shows, women are seen as being competent in their careers, while managing a home and the children, while the men, who still work, come home and relax, often neglecting the housework and children. Or if they try to do chores or interact with their child, they mess up, much to the dismay of the mother/wife.

The question then becomes–Do commercials and TV influence real life? Many researchers think so—leading some to call for change: if you want equality, then maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to show parents working together for the greater good of their household.


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Social Networking at Work

Many adults like to jump on social networking sites while at work. However, some companies have strict rules against logging in to social networking sites like Facebook, even when employees are on break or lunch.

DiMicco et al. (2008) conducted a study of people using social networking sites while at work. They found that the workers actually used the sites to communicate and maintain relationships on a personal level with their co-workers, especially with those whom they had weak relationships with. Workers also used the sites to promote their different work-related projects.

Perhaps it’s not always a bad idea to limit people’s social networking–after all, having strong relationships with coworkers helps to retain employees.

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Research on Early Childhood Education and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) is a popular tool for assessing the quality of classrooms. Moreover, school readiness is a hot issue among early childcare providers, especially Head Start.

Even President Obama has chimed in on the importance of early childhood education with respect to Head Start.

Below are links to some research on early childhood education and the quality of classrooms through different dimensions, especially with respect to the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). These research findings help show the importance of having quality within preschool classrooms.

Mashburn et al. (2008)

Pianta et al. (2005)

Raver et al. (2008)

Pianta and Hamre (2009)

Pianta (2003)

Gromley Jr, Phillips, and Gayer

For other blogs on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): click here to read a synopsis on CLASS and other early childhood assessment tools, click here to see the breakdown of the CLASS content (the domains and dimensions), click here to read more about Dr Hamre’s work regarding CLASS and academic achievement, or click here to read about how to implement CLASS.

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Childhood Obesity: Strong4Life Campaign

In Georgia nearly 40% of children are overweight or obese according to strong4life.

Currently they are running several tactical ads to help curb the overweight/obesity epidemic.

There are several other strong4life campaign commercials that can be found on YouTube. ABC News in Atlanta did an expose (as shown through Yahoo! News) on the strong4life campaign.

Do you think that these tactics are effective? Why or why not?

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New Year’s Resolution: Get out of Debt

Every year people come up with New Year’s Resolutions. According to About.com in Pittsburgh one of the top 10 Resolutions is to Get Out of Debt.

Many Americans are in debt and many of those debts are due to student loans. In fact, according to Boushey (2003), college loans are up 85% compared to a decade ago. Boushey continues on to say that even though student loan debt may be good debt and may lead to higher paying employment, it also may have adverse effects because of the economic recession.

This may influence people to seek out financial literacy help. As Lusardi and Tufano  (2008) have found, the people who may need the most financial literacy support are women, the elderly, minorities, and low income families and the wealthy.

Some websites to help with Financial Literacy are:

The Government’s Financial Literacy Website:


Financial Literacy Month


Certified Public Accountants:


Federal Student Aid:


National Financial Educators Council


Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy


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Employment Weight Loss

January is a time when many people start focusing on their bodies, dropping the holiday pounds, and making resolutions to live healthier lives.

Companies also benefit from having healthy employees, as they take fewer sick days, they work more efficiently, and they use less medical benefits.

During the fall the agency I worked for had a Commit to Fit program, where we introduced to employees many of the parks located in Indianapolis, by having ‘walking outting’ every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for 6 straight weeks. Participating was voluntary, and they could go as often as they chose. This was done to accomplish at least three goals: 1) to help employees lead active lives; 2) show off Indianapolis’ amazing park system; and 3) to bond with other co-workers.

This winter we are instituting healthy initiatives that are in-doors, such as aerobics and Zumba classes (taught by employees who have a passion for this), as well as team sports, like volleyball and kickball (purchasing supplies for these games are relatively inexpensive and a great way to establish camaraderie).

Anderson et al. (2009) conducted a literature review of employment programs offering health initiatives and their effects. They found that there are moderate effects from healthy initiative programs. So, if you’re considering getting your employees healthy in the new year, come up with some great winter health ideas–it just might help your waist line and your bottom line.

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Cairns, Australia

February 2014: Cairns is a great city in Australia as a jumping off point. You can easily book trips to the Great Barrier Reef or head on into the Rainforest or book crocodile finding boat trips.

In fact, when you walk down the main streets of Cairns, probably 50% of the shops are tourist booking agencies.

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Since there isn’t a lot to do in Cairns, beyond enjoying some eateries and generic shopping, you should definitely hit up one or more of these booking centers (or book through your hotel/hostel).

Most trips are day long adventures, meaning that when you return, the booking centers are closed for the day. So preparing ahead of time is important to maximize your Cairns trip–the day your plane lands in Cairns book your different trips and check out the city. And feel free to ask for a discount–depending on the person serving you, you may get a cheaper price.

Although I didn’t see some of the glitz and glamour found in other photos:

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.53.40 PM I did find some amazing views! 20140226_054659 20140225_223802 20140225_223523 And some not so amazing views!


The main swimming hole in Cairns

20140223_032340 Did I mention Cairns has bats! Thousands of bats, that can be heard throughout the city center. Or flying immediately over your head! 20140224_095049   They also have some “artwork”.


Apparently people peeing? can be seen outside an art building

20140226_075854 Overall, Cairns is a nice place, but because you can’t swim in their beaches (due to injurious and deadly sea animals), it’s really only good as a springboard to do other fun things in the area: things that can be costly. Consider either booking a rented car to get you out exploring or be prepared to shell out between $100-$150 AUS per excursion, but maybe meet some cool people on the bus rides.

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Blue Mountains, Australia: It can be foggy!

February 2014: Taking a bus out from Sydney to visit the Blue Mountains wasn’t a tough endeavour. In fact, my weekly all-access pass got me on the bus for no extra cost. So just sit back, relax, and in a little while I’ll be in a different landscape.

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Another websites view of the Blue Mountains (click picture to their link)

I started out at the day at a beach and by the afternoon I was able to see my breathe as I hopped off the bus. From there it was a couple km walk to the Blue Mountains.

Taking a bus or taxi isn’t hard to do, but why spend money when the purpose was to hike? The first half of the walk is great, because you’re walking through a town filled with shops. The second half was less exciting to view, as it was composed of houses.

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I had done all of the research (click here for a helpful website), saw several amazing things to do while in the Blue Mountains, such as take the skyway, see some waterfalls, maybe make it over to some caves. None of these were the case, sadly.

The good thing about the Blue Mountains–great views! The bad thing about the Blue Mountains–it needs to not be rainy and foggy.


My view of the Blue Mountains…you just had to laugh….or cry

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Overall, it was still a fun experience and totally worth the trip! But check the weather before going (i.e. the Sydney weather is not the same as in the Blue Mountains).

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Beijing, China Airport

On the way to Australia, I had to go through Beijing.

My first roommate in college was Chinese and always went around greeting new people saying “Hello my friend”. Now I understand where he got that expression from.


So, I traveled halfway around the world to walk into a KFC.


Then visited my first hole-in-the-ground toilet.


And of course had to see the Chinese Pepsi vs Coca Cola battle.


After cramming my way through the security checkpoint (there is no personal space–they adhere to the “if we all push into the person in front of us, the line will move faster” mantra) I spent a good 20 minutes staring at screens trying to find out which gate to go to. They have a fun system where flights will flash and then a new group of flights will appear, so if you have slight OCD and want to make sure you read the screen correctly, you get to watch all of the flights flash for another 10-15 minutes. AKA–take a picture, quickly.


Notice the NH, ZH, NZ, etc flights


Then they all switch to CA flights in Chinese

Overall, it was confusing which line to stand in to get my passport stamped, the security checks were quite cramped, prepare yourself to ask several people how to find certain checkpoints and gates, but the shops were quite nice and workers were overall helpful (even with very limited English–just don’t try to ask for explanations for why something is a particular way).



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ISSOP Conference 2014: The Uppsala University Social Pediatric Team Meets Gothenburg

The 2014 ISSOP Conference was held in Gothenburg. ISSOP stands for the International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health. Most of our research group, Social Pediatrics at Uppsala University, attended and presented at this conference, either with oral presentations or with posters. There were only about a dozen or less posters at the conference and the designated times to view them where during breaks, so not many people spent time around the posters. However, the oral presentations were very well attended.


The conference was a great venue for our research team, as many audience members showed a great deal of enthusiasm for our research.

Below are some pictures from talks from members of our research group.


Pär Bokström presenting on In My Shoes: a program designed to better elicit information from children


Anna Sarkadi discussing a novel way of analyzing population differences after an intervention


Filipa Sampaio presenting on the cost-effectiveness of parenting programs


Kine Johansen presenting on SOMP-I: early motor development techniques


Thomas Wallby presenting on the Swedish register data through BHV


Lisa Wellander giving a presentation on the costs of child mental ill-health and alternative ways of reducing mental ill-health while lowering costs for municipalities.

Click here to read about my presentations, click here to read about the ISSOP conference as a whole, click here to read about how we brought our research to the streets of Gothenburg, and click here to read about my time in Gothenburg.

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