I’m often asked by fellow PhD students–what should I have on the cover of my dissertation (avhandling) book?
To me, the answer was very clear–I wanted the overall message, the theme, of my dissertation to be front and center on the cover.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I should shorten my dissertation ;)
I had a childhood friend, Kirb Brimstone (also found on Facebook here), do the artwork. I advised him what I wanted and he drew it.
Here’s the significance of my cover art:
Since my dissertation is about how fathers are not provided with an equal chance to parent, both through the Swedish family policies and through the institutions, like the child health field, I had this represented on the cover.
There’s an illustration of Sweden in the background, with a father, presumably from Uppsala University, holding his daughter’s hand as he walks towards a nurse and a preschool teacher.
The nurse and preschool teacher are both women, signifying the gender difference men/fathers face at the outset of garnering parenting advice from these individuals.
However, he is stopped at a fence, with a lock, signifying the gatekeeping that is happening as those who have knowledge about young children’s health hold the keys (and therefore the power) to inform or not inform others about young children’s health.
In this case, fathers feel like the gate is closed, and that they have several barriers to break down before they can be fully accepted into the child health world.
Mainly people in Sweden and around the world believe that Sweden is a very gender equal country. And to its credit, it most certainly is, especially relative to other countries. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a vast amount of work still needed before achieving gender equality. While many people work with the struggle for equal rights for women, few pose the argument on ways men/fathers are discriminated against, not the least of which is through the Swedish child health field.
With that in mind, the sign on the gatekeeping fence has a sign saying “Nullius in Verba” which is Latin for “take nobody’s word for it”. In other words, just because people believe Sweden is a gender equal country, and that men/fathers hold all of the power–do not take societies word for it.
Seek out the truth…..by reading my dissertation.
You can find a copy of my dissertation by clicking here.
One last thing–I gave a tip of my hat to the father-figures in my life: my father (JSW), my two grandfathers (KFE & CRW), and my best childhood friends dad (SP) by having their initials “carved” into the fence on the right-hand side. This was also intended as a symbolic gesture, suggesting that these fathers had reached the gate, but were stopped and couldn’t be as involved in all aspects of childrearing as they might have liked due to the various levels of gatekeeping that they encountered.
After sitting and writing your dissertation (avhandling) for months, the day comes when it’s is printed.
It looks so real! A book, with my name as the author is coming into being. Are all of my citations correct? Are my results right? I didn’t mess up any of the decimal places, did I?
After a thorough checking of your printed dissertation is completed, you send it in for processing and you get a real book!
Once your dissertation is complete, you have a spikning. A spikning is when you nail your avhandling (dissertation) to the wall.
Everyone used to nail it to a door/wall at the main university building, but today, it’s more common to only nail it within your own office space or to not even literally nail it, but rather just celebrate the accomplishment.
Either way, I did feel a bit like Martin Luther, although I think my findings were a bit less controversial.
And of course, it’s always nice to hear toasts, make toasts.
And celebrate the accomplishment with cake.
Now just a few short weeks until the actual defense.
Having worked with my advisors, collaborated with other researchers, and supported PhD students in their research, I thought it was time to see if I could design, implement, analyze, write, and publish an article on my own.
Now that it’s January 1, 2015, I’m extremely delighted to say that I was able to accomplish this. Not only to publish my own research, but to publish it in one of the best education journals (and the best early childhood education journal) Early Childhood Research Quarterly (currently has an impact factor of 2.058 with a 5-year impact factor of 3.657, making ECRQ the best journal I’ve been published in so far (see below for a debate I had with myself on this statement).
Another published article was in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, which has an impact factor of 3.125, but ECRQ is ranked 19th out of 219 in Education (best 8.7%), while SJPH 21st out of 162 in Public, Environmental, and Occupational Health (best 13%); making ECRQ “better”.
Beyond these publications are two published abstracts and a published report:
Wells, M.B. (2013). A quantitative look at preschool teachers’ retention: A study on Head Start teachers. 23rd EECERA Conference: Values, Culture and Contexts, 243.
Wells, M., Varga, G., & Sarkadi, A. (2012). Wanting to actively promote fathers: A qualitative study on Swedish child health nurses’ views of father involvement. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 19, Supplement 1, S195.
Feldman, I., Wellander, L., Sampaio, F., Wells, M., & Sarkadi, A. (2014). Med manga bäcker att stämma i – hur ska vi prioritera och hur beräknar vi kostnaden? En förstudie om beräkningar av kostnader och potentiella besparingar vid förebyggande insatser kring barn och unga i riskzon.
DOWNLOADS & CITATIONS
ResearchGate, a personal website for individual researchers to share their work, says that my publications have been downloaded 969 times with an RG score of 15.14 (a score higher than 57.5% of other ResearchGate users). I’m not sure how many other downloads my articles have had, nor am I ultimately sure if nearly 1000 downloads is a high or low number–but it sounds like a lot of people are at least interested in downloading my research.
In 2012 I had my first citation according to Scholar Google. Now, Scholar Google overexaggerates the citations, as it includes non-peer reviewed manuscripts, but still, others are reading my research and citing them.
In 2012, I had 5 citations, by 2013 that number over doubled to 13, and in 2014 my citations increased an additional 19, for a total of 37 citations. Will be terrifyingly interesting to see if these numbers continue increasing for 2015!
These citations should be increased though, as I know I was cited in The invisible father: How can child healthcare services help fathers to feel less alienated? in Anna Sarkadi’s editorial, where she cites Gender equality in Swedish child health centres: An analysis of their physical environments and parental behaviours but instead called it Who is most welcome here? A qualitative study on Swedish child health centre’s environment from a gender perspective (a previous title we had given the same paper prior to its acceptance for publication—this is a nice reminder to always check and update CVs to make sure they include the latest article titles).
Beyond the citations, I am most grateful for being invited to three talks to discuss my research. Of course, like all researchers, I have attended and presented at several national and international conferences, but to be invited to speak at different venues highlights that others acknowledge the importance of my research and want to hear more about it. In fact, for the Barnhälsovård Nationell Konferens in Umeå, I had my flight paid for (first time to be compensated for a talk!).
Wells, M.B. (2014, Oct.). Advocating for Father Involvement in Swedish Child Health Care. Barnhälsovård Nationell Konferens (National Child Health Conference) in Umeå, Sweden.
Wells, M.B. (2013, Oct.). Fathers in the Swedish Healthcare System: Are They Treated Equally? Barnklinikens fredagsmöten (Children’s Clinic Friday Meetings) in Uppsala, Sweden.
Wells, M.B. (2013, May). Almost a Parent: The Treatment of Fathers in Sweden and Internationally. Välkommen till våra Vårluncher: Socialpediatriska forskargruppen (Welcome to our Spring Lunches: Social Pediatrics Research Team) in Uppsala, Sweden.
Most recently, the popular media has picked up on my research, and thanks to Dr Malin Bergström, I was interviewed for a piece on father involvement at the Swedish child health centers in the very popular Swedish parenting magazine Vi Föräldrar! The title of the piece is Äntligen! Papporna får Egentid på BVC (Finally, Fathers get their own time at the Child Health Centers).
At the end of April I will finish my PhD and it will be interesting to look back at my accomplishments posted here, because I suspect nothing else will have been accomplished, since my focus will be primarily on my dissertation, as well as mentoring a final year medical student, attending two international conferences, and finishing writing another article (with Lisa Wellander and Dr Inna Feldman).
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.
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.
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 :)
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!
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.
Publishing a 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Preparing 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:
Make sure lunch and fika (snacks) are ordered as appropriate
Give a 20 (to 30) minute presentation to the general public and your 3 committee members
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
Committee members meet privately with your supervisor and co-supervisors to discuss your progress
Committee members meet privately to decide if you’ve passed your half-time
Your supervisor is notified by the committee members, who then informs you of the decision
Pay raise is given :)
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).
After the committee deliberation, I found out that I had passed my half-time!
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):
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).
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.
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.
This 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.
Another 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
To my chagrin, the pediatricians didn’t challenge me on how medical staff in Sweden treats fathers compared to mothers
(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.
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.
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:
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:
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”).
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.
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).
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
needed 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 Tampere (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.
I was quite nervous about my first prenatal parent meeting. Would I understand everything? How many other parents would be there? How many other expectant fathers would be there? Would I make any friends? Would I like the midwife?
The questions were about to be answered as we approached the doors to the clinic around 3pm. The meeting would last for two hours. We were one of the last couples to come in.
Couples were sitting in a U-shape, with the midwife’s chair at the top. We took the last two seats and quickly realized we needed to write our names on a piece of paper. Lisa chose green–surprise, surprise.
Being ever analytical, I had to observe everyone’s name. Notice anything in the above picture?
There were nine expectant mothers present; eight of whom were with their partner and one who was with her mother. All couples were Swedish, except one couple, where both were from Belgium, and of course myself.
We started off the first meeting by having the midwife tell us to be seated in our birthing order. We quickly discovered that we were the second youngest couple, with birthday’s ranging from around the 10th of January to the 27th. Ours is on the 25th.
After that, everyone started introducing themselves one-by-one. To do this, we were instructed to come up with one word that describes themselves based on the first letter of their first name.
I said “mouth” for “Michael” since I like to talk a lot. After me was a woman who’s name started with an E. I’ll call her Elin. Elin said “ensam” (alone). Elin was the one person in the whole class who didn’t have the expectant father come with. It was a bit heartbreaking to hear her say ensam, and I immediately thought that the course could have had one course for couples and one course for people who will come alone.
This thought proved to be very true as the course progressed, but I’ll come to that in later posts.
After introducing ourselves, the midwife told us what to expect regarding the course and then we delved into the importance of breastfeeding. After the midwife spoke about breastfeeding for a while, we took a fika. No course can happen without a fika break!
During fika we divided into groups–four groups of four, basically. Two groups of expectant moms and two of expectant dads. We were to talk about the lecture and our thoughts on breastfeeding.
The guys in my group were all pro-breastfeeding and all wanted to encourage their partners, but felt like the choice was really their partners and not there’s.
I discussed alternatives if our partners didn’t want to breastfeed, such as breast pumping and purchasing breast milk from others–the guys were less enthusiastic about this and some didn’t even know it was possible. The overall consensus from my group was that it was mostly the woman’s decision, although they liked the idea of breastfeeding.
After 10-15 minutes, we digressed into talking about who we were. So far, we hadn’t even done introductions of each other. All of the guys were professionals, and most commute to work (e.g. Stockholm), and not all live in Uppsala (e.g. one was living in Örebro, while his partner lived in Uppsala). And here I thought it was tough for me to come to a 3pm meeting. Others were traveling hours to make it to this course. One word: dedication!
We then met back up to go over our breastfeeding discussions. Turns out the other groups did similar things–talked about breastfeeding before digressing into getting to better know each other.
I didn’t make any friends, per se. But I did have a fun time.
I will have to attend a Swedish-speaking prenatal parental course. They were supposed to offer an English version, but the person who runs that course is on parental leave, so I am left to attend the Swedish version. Yikes!
This version is presumably better in some ways, as there are a couple of extra classes that you don’t get in the English version–apparently a couple of times, people from the outside (e.g. non-midwives) will come to discuss certain topics with the class. For example, we will have one class on relationships. That course is taught by two people from the Swedish church, rather than from the midwives at the clinic.
The course meets 6 times over a 1.5 month time period. And then a seventh visit about 1-1.5 months after we all have our babies (this first baby is due to be born a bit before mid-January, while the latest is the 27th of January….but who knows when they’ll all pop out ;)
We have also learned that the midwife leading the class is from the same location as our midwife, but sadly is not our midwife :( They do rotations. This means that this is our fourth midwife so far (first midwife = first prenatal visit [she didn’t like father involvement so we discontinued seeing her], second midwife = current midwife at the MVC hjärtat, third midwife = ultrasound midwife).
This continuity of care is a bit annoying, personally. You search for a good midwife and make a connection with her, but meanwhile you’re just tossed from one midwife to the next. But I digress.
Anyway, at Hjärtet, they have several other ways to be involved while you’re pregnant.
For example, the profylaxkurs is a type of massage class for partners, vattengympa is doing exercises in the water, pappaträff is for expectant dad’s to meet each other, väntabarn igen-träff–not sure what that is (maybe if you’re waiting for your second [third, etc] kid and want to meet other parents), regnbågsgrupp could maybe be for same-sex couples, and baby massage is just like it sounds.
Three weeks after our last appointment, we met our prenatal midwife.
This visit was basically a repeat of the previous visit.
She answered our questions, did a iron-level blood test, measured the belly to see how the baby was growing, monitored the baby’s heartbeat, and took Lisa’s blood pressure.
Since we knew the routine, this visit went a lot faster than the previous one–mainly because I was so curious and asked a lot of questions at the last visit. But since there was nothing new, I had little new questions to ask.
The baby grew as expected. They have three lines on their computer chart–and upper limit, mean (or median [not sure]), and lower limit. Both measurements of the size of the baby is right below the mean (median) level.
However, Lisa’s iron levels were apparently “off the chart”–not literally. This must have been about week 29 (this may be off by one or so weeks). Lisa’s iron level was 137, but 110-120 is considered to be the average iron level for that week in her pregnancy. This was kind of funny too, because the baby’s heart rate was at about the same number.
Side note: I noticed on the first visit that I saw numbers of the baby’s heartbeat to be between 140-145, but the midwife said it was “140.” And then on the second visit, the heart rate jumped around from 134-141, and again she wrote 135. So I’m now wondering why they pick basically the lowest number, rather than the average number that they witness?
A few weeks after our ultrasound, we visited the prenatal clinic.
We walked in and took a seat, genuinely interested in what the next steps were. After all, the pregnancy was all real now! The belly is growing. The baby is moving! We’ve seen the baby!
While we waited, our midwife popped from around the corner.
“Hey! How are you guys doing?” she said.
“Fantastic. Looking forward to the visit,” I replied without missing a beat.
“I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
Looking over at Lisa I said, “Wow! Can you believe she remembered us? And remembered that I’d prefer English?”
“Ya, she has a great memory,” Lisa replied.
Sure as the morning star, a minute passed, and she whisked us back to her office. We could then ask any and all questions on our minds, while she had a few topics up her sleeve.
She showed us the “chart” that would be used every three weeks from here until the baby is born to measure things like the amount of iron in Lisa’s blood (via a simple blood test), measuring her blood pressure, measuring the size of her belly, and checking the baby’s heart beat.
Inquisitive as I am, I had to ask how she found the uterus–the place where they measure from. I couldn’t feel it with my hands, but clearly she felt something and the measurement took place.
Then we waited and listened for the heart beat. That was almost as cool as the ultrasound. Hearing your child’s heartbeat was a great and euphoric feeling, especially for Lisa.
Meanwhile, I started asking questions: What’s the heart rate? What’s a normal heart rate? What do we do if the baby’s heart rate is too fast?
Answers: Around 142, 130-150, if it’s above 150, then they would make us wait and remeasure to see if the baby’s heart rate calms down. If it doesn’t then they would send us to the hospital to monitor the heartbeat for a longer time period to see if the baby’s stress level can go down or not.
She then took Lisa’s blood pressure and did a blood test to check for the iron levels. Her iron was right in the middle, which apparently meant that she should take one iron pill every second day from now on.
The midwife then reminded us about the prenatal parent education classes that would be starting soon, and we started booking all of our prenatal visits between now and our baby’s due date (25th of January 2016). We will visit the midwife every three weeks (the normal routine for all parents in Sweden).
Although this report is full of useful information, it draws a line regarding family or intimate partner violence. Despite the fact that the whole report constantly uses the word “equal” and its derivations, when it comes to domestic, family, or intimate partner violence, it has the headline: “Men’s violence against women must stop.”
While I can appreciate the facts listed in the report, it signals that either there is no women’s violence against men or that women’s violence against men is acceptable.
Thankfully the sentence below the headline mentions “women and men, girls and boys shall have the same rights and opportunities in terms of physical integrity.”
That’s fantastic! But this equality between the genders is not represented in the title.
When I first read this type of headline “Violence Against Women Must Stop” I thought it would be analogous to “Black Lives Matter”. Black Lives Matter is an important phrase in the USA that gets undermined by the political right when they say “All Lives Matter”. It’s undermined because the other lives that aren’t black are not (typically) discriminated against.
So I wondered if trying to say “violence against people” would similarly be disadvantageous, as we typically think that it’s the man committing violence against the woman.
Assuming that it is disadvantageous to say violence against people, that is, with more men committing violence against women (than vice versa), the comparisons should still be in the report. This should be in the report for three reasons: 1) To show the extent that men and women differ with respect to this type of violence; 2) to be consistent with every other section (since all other topics compare the two genders); and 3) Not discussing this issue says that women either don’t hit men, or that as a man, you’re not supposed to report it if it happens-which is not the right signal to send to citizens.
The report also seems to jump around, switching from violence against women to a report of assaults. These numbers jump significantly. Men are way more likely to be hit outdoors, while women are much more likely to be hit indoors. But the authors choose to discuss “hidden statistics” rather than interpreting the graph.
So should the report neglect women’s violence against men? Let’s see what the literature has to say about this issue:
A large debate within the partner violence literature is whether violence is 1) perpetrated by the male and the female is the victim or 2) that both partners may inflict violence upon one another (Archer, 2000). Many feminists focus on violence against women, while family violence researchers; sometimes called family conflict researchers (Archer, 2002), focus on the bi-directionality of both genders as perpetrators and as victims (Archer, 2002). The debate around these terms is beyond the scope of this thesis, but other sources provide a review on this topic (Enander, 2011).
Conclusion: saying “men’s violence against women” is already picking a side, since each label connotes a different meaning and the research is attacked from a different angle. For example, “family violence” researchers typically look at how partner to partner violence affects the family (mother, father, and child), while “violence against women” research mainly just looks at a man’s violence to their woman partner.
Prevalence of Partner to Partner Violence:
After reviewing the literature, Enander (2011) concludes that no violence is gender-neutral. In fact, two meta-analyses conclude that men and women use similar amounts of physical aggression towards their partners (Archer, 2000, 2006). Men and women, in relation to partner violence, is also similar with respect to the instrumentality, such as controlling behavior (Graham-Kevan, 2007). However, the degree to which they inflict an injury is biased toward men. For example, although women are slightly more likely to use physical aggression compared to men, as men inflict injury more often (62 percent) than women (38 percent) against their partners (Archer, 2000). There are gender differences that may help to explain the levels of injuries: for example, women are more likely to slap, kick, bite, punch, or hit their partner with an object, while men are more likely to beat-up, choke, or strangle their partner (Archer, 2002).
Prevalence. Based on a national sample in Sweden, Rådestad et al. (2004) found that 2 percent of women said they had been hit by their partner. Nearly two-thirds of these instances contained only one perpetration of being hit (61 percent), while 15 percent were hit three or more times. A Swedish study found that 1.3% of women either during or shortly after pregnancy were abused by a close acquaintance or relative (Stenson et al., 2001). In looking at the year prior to pregnancy, the same study found that this number rose to 2.8%. The wider they defined violence against women and the farther they looked back into a woman’s history, the more likely she was to have experienced abuse. In fact, 19.4% of women experience some type of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse between their birth and when they are 20 weeks post-partum. Stenson et al. (2001) concludes that routine practices need to be established for screening for violence against women during pregnancy.
Conclusion: In looking at the world and Swedish literature, it seems like men and women may commit partner violence equally as often, but that when men hit, they are more likely to injury their partner (e.g. hit harder).
While 2-3 % of Swedish women admit to having partner violence, these numbers are more prevalent if the definition is expanded to include other types of violence, such as emotional and sexual abuse–however I did not find numbers for men/fathers using these broader definitions and so it is difficult to compare.
Archer, John. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin, 126(5), 651-680.
Archer, John. (2002). Sex differences in physically aggressive acts between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Aggression and violent behavior, 7(4), 313-351.
Archer, John. (2006). Cross-cultural differences in physical aggression between partners: A social-role analysis. Personality and social psychology review, 10(2), 133-153.
Beydoun, Hind A, Beydoun, May A, Kaufman, Jay S, Lo, Bruce, & Zonderman, Alan B. (2012). Intimate partner violence against adult women and its association with major depressive disorder, depressive symptoms and postpartum depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 75(6), 959-975.
Brown, Jocelyn, Cohen, Patricia, Johnson, Jeffrey G, & Salzinger, Suzanne. (1998). A longitudinal analysis of risk factors for child maltreatment: Findings of a 17-year prospective study of officially recorded and self-reported child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse Negl, 22(11), 1065-1078.
Enander, Viveka. (2011). Violent Women? The Challenge of Women’s Violence in Intimate Heterosexual Relationships to Feminist Analyses of Partner Violence. NORA-Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 19(2), 105-123.
Evans, Sarah E, Davies, Corrie, & DiLillo, David. (2008). Exposure to domestic violence: A meta-analysis of child and adolescent outcomes. Aggression and violent behavior, 13(2), 131-140.
Finnbogadóttir, Hafrún, & Dykes, Anna-Karin. (2012). Midwives’ awareness and experiences regarding domestic violence among pregnant women in southern Sweden. Midwifery, 28(2), 181-189.
Graham-Kevan, Nicola. (2007). Domestic violence: Research and implications for batterer programmes in Europe. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 13(3-4), 213-225.
Rådestad, Ingela, Rubertsson, Christine, Ebeling, Marie, & Hildingsson, Ingegerd. (2004). What factors in early pregnancy indicate that the mother will be hit by her partner during the year after childbirth? A nationwide Swedish survey. Birth, 31(2), 84-92.
Stenson, Kristina, Heimer, Gun, Lundh, Christina, Nordström, Marie-Louise, Saarinen, Hilkka, & Wenker, Anita. (2001). The prevalence of violence investigated in a pregnant population in Sweden. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 22(4), 189-197.
Stoltenborgh, Marije, van IJzendoorn, Marinus H, Euser, Eveline M, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, Marian J. (2011). A global perspective on child sexual abuse: Meta-analysis of prevalence around the world. Child Maltreatment, 16(2), 79-101.
Sweden, Statistics. (2014). Women and men in Sweden: Facts and figures 2014. In L. Bernhardtz (Ed.). Örebro, Sweden.
Wolfe, David A, Crooks, Claire V, Lee, Vivien, McIntyre-Smith, Alexandra, & Jaffe, Peter G. (2003). The effects of children’s exposure to domestic violence: A meta-analysis and critique. Clinical child and family psychology review, 6(3), 171-187.
One of the best things about being a PhD student in Sweden is the salary. PhD students in the USA often only have to work 20 hours per week (with an assistantship) or maybe technically, 0 hours per week (with a fellowship). Still others do not have to work, but do have to pay to attend their PhD program. Yuck!
When students do work, it’s not uncommon to get between $12,000-$18,000 per year (or per school year), while some fancy people may get as high as $30,000. For example, my buddy got $17,000 plus another $10,000 fellowship.
But those numbers pale in comparison to Sweden! Click here to see the pdf of the Uppsala University pay scale for PhD students in Medicine.
Currently, a starting PhD student will have to work 40 hours per week, but that also includes their course work, conference time, etc, and their work (i.e. research). In compensation for that, they receive 25,000 SEK per month ($2936 per month or $35,232 per year–and that’s at the current crappy conversion rate [1:8.52]).
When students are 50% completed with their PhD they earn 27,900 SEK per month ($3276 per month) and when they’re 80% completed (all but dissertation normally), then they receive 29,700 SEK per month ($3488 per month or $41,856 per year!). Plus all of the government benefits and pension money.
Of course, if you are not just a researcher, but also a physician, then your salary increases to a whopping 35,700 SEK per month ($50,304 per year)!
In highlighting 30 years of gender progress, a recent Swedish government report states that gender equality gaps are closing (Statistics Sweden, 2014).
Although this report is very useful and helps to shed light on important factors for women/mothers and men/fathers regarding gender equality in the home, childcare, and workplace, the report focuses on gender equality mainly in terms of the amount of time women/mothers and men/fathers spend in doing something (e.g. work, housework, childcare).
This post will point out the major flaws in defining “gender equality” the way this report does.
For example, the report says the gender gap is closing regarding housework (after all it’s listed under the headline “Gender Equality Since the 1980s” on page 4). But on page 5, they start going deeper saying that women have reduced their amount of unpaid work by one hour, while men have increased their amount of unpaid work by only eight minutes since 1990.
In other words, gender equality is being achieved just because women are doing less around the house. Thank you dishwasher for making my house more gender equal. Thank you maid for making us a gender equal family. Thank you childcare worker for watching our kids all day and night, and thus, we both spend an equal amount of time with our kids. Hypothetically this could mean that parents spend 0 hours per week doing housework, childcare, etc to reach “gender equality”.
Obviously that last example wouldn’t happen–but defining gender equality this way allows for that interpretation if it did happen. Focusing on the amount of time someone spends doing something is a horrible way to judge equality.
Two definitions (among many others) would be to focus on productivity and/or the intensity/amount of labor it takes to complete a task.
1) Being Productive: If one person diddle-daddles around the house while cleaning, they all of a sudden, get more points for the amount of housework completed, compared to the efficient houseworker???
2) Intensity: Putting away dishes is a daily chore, but low-intensity. Pulling weeds is a weekly chore, but high intensity. (Substitute weed pulling for raking leaves or snow shoveling, depending on the season).
It’s not fair to judge women and men based on how much time they spend doing chores, especially if they also don’t consider the productivity of the worker or the intensity of the chore.
The Swedish government, which prides itself on achieving gender equality needs to do a better job of more accurately defining this important term. Otherwise, the outcomes are biased and therefore not as untrustworthy.
Education, Health, Mental Health, and Public Policy