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

My chapter

The English article is published 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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