Swedish Child Health Nurses: Their Effect on Paternal Involvement

In 2009, I attended the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) Conference where I presented my findings on qualitative interviews I completed on Swedish Child Health Nurses. Dr Anna Sarkadi of Uppsala University in the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health in Social Pediatrics in Sweden advised and analyzed the data with me.

Click Here to see the poster that was presented at the conference for a full understanding of the data collection and analysis.

In Sweden, about 98% of all families visit the Child Health Centers, where children between 0 – 6 years old go to receive routine growth and development check-ups and vaccinations. Parents also attend to receive parenting advise, participate in parent support groups, and to have their child tested for any developmental delays.

Although there has been much research completed on the effectiveness of the Swedish child health centers, little research has focused on the Child Health Nurses perceptions of their jobs, especially in relation to involving fathers (since historically only mothers came to the child health centers).

17 Child Health Nurses from all over Sweden were interviewed and the interviews were qualitatively analyzed for themes and categories.

Despite Sweden’s egalitarian public policies regarding parental leave, Child Health Nurses mainly expressed traditional views on the fathers’ roles in parenting, viewing the mother as the primary caretaker and the father as an often engaged and skilled, but still, a supporting parent. Swedish Child Health Nurses also realized that the Child Health Centers might not be so explicitly father-friendly, but they saw no role of their own in actively encouraging fathers’ participation. Child Health Nurses were also clearly unaware of the major impact their views and practices might have on father involvement: they wanted to leave those choices up to the parents.

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