Category Archives: Conferences

A Discussion on Fatherhood with Swedish Child Health Professionals

Starting in 2012, a conference is organized once a semester for those child health professionals in Stockholm working in the prenatal clinics, child health centers, preschools, and social services with children (aged 0-6) and their families.

The conference was organized by Åsa Heimer and Catharina Neovius.

IMG_0511
A large hotel where the conference was held in Rinkeby-Kista.

In March of 2015, the conference topic was on the importance of fathers. Mats Berggren from Män för Jämställdhet (Men for Gender Equality) and myself would be giving the main lectures for the day. 

Those in attendance are all Swedish-speaking (while I’m not so much), and they mainly work with non-native Swedish families (around 80% of their families are not originally from Sweden), with many of them working in the Rinkeby-Kista area (Stockholm).

I didn’t see a huge difference in how these professionals should treat fathers, based on their country of origin (except to note that some fathers would be less involved and feel like they should be less involved in childrearing compared to Swedish fathers). However, since the Swedish child health field typically doesn’t involve fathers via providing them with support (at least not to the same extent as mothers), I felt like the advice could be more general and simple:

                   Treat mothers and fathers similarly, by giving                                                    them each the individual support that they require.

So I made both an English version (not presented) and a Swedish version (presented).

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 10.57.55 PM
Click on the picture to see the English presentation.
Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 10.58.29 PM
Click on the picture to see the Swedish presentation

The audience, however, was much larger than I expected. There were maybe 100+ professionals eagerly listening. In addition, they didn’t want to hear research, but rather more practical advice on how and why to interact and involve fathers–so that’s what I tried to gear my talk towards.

IMG_0508

Having worked in Quality Assurance in Head Start for three years, you come to quickly realize that no one likes their jobs being critiqued. So I was super-glad when several audience members spoke up acknowledging the problems they face, watching professionals take notes, and having all of my printed copies of the powerpoint snatched up.

I then received a wonder gift package for presenting 🙂

IMG_0507

My only regret was not approaching these professionals individually and in small groups afterwards to get their feedback–after all, I’m not lecturing to hear myself, but because I believe that behavior changes are important, but difficult and that we all need to work together to make the important changes that we desire.

Neurobiology of Parenting Conference (2015): Swedish Child Health Fields’ Treatment of Fathers

The Neurobiology of Parenting Conference (2015) took place in Stockholm, Sweden. The conference was organized by the Swedish Society of Medicine, but also with Acta Paediatrica (an academic journal), Sällskapet Barnavård, John Lind Stiftelsen, and Karolinska Institutet

IMG_4417
Swedish doctor holds his cigar: A bygone time of medical astuteness that’s still amply displayed at the Swedish Society of Medicine.

There were probably 150-200 people, with researchers from around the world attending.

Great view from the windows of the Swedish Society of Medicine.
Great view from the windows of the Swedish Society of Medicine.

I have been locked into the psychological world of parenting, only minorly breaking out into public health and sociology. Therefore, learning about the neurobiology of parenting was a true gift and opened my eyes to a wealth of research that I hadn’t contemplated (or as the colloquial axiom goes: you don’t know, what you don’t know).

Naturally, a history lesson helped kick-off the conference.

IMG_4408

It was interesting to see all of the research on skin-to-skin contact.

IMG_4416

As well as the research on the alleged plasticity of the human brain with respect to parental caregiving. Apparently our brains can change based on the amount of caregiving we do (or at least that’s a basic way of stating intricate diagrams).

IMG_4412

IMG_4413

In other words, fathers can be just as caring and sensitive as mothers, but they need to take on primary parenting roles for these chemical changes to occur. This flies in the face of previous research which suggested that mothers gain their maternal instincts by virtue of being pregnant and the chemical changes that occur during gestation.

IMG_4410

I presented less on neurobiology (since that’s certainly not my field) and more on the Swedish child health field’s attitude and (lack of) support they provide fathers.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 9.56.02 PM
My poster based on my PhD dissertation.

Despite my poster not being on neurobiology, I ran into several other researchers who were interested in my research and who, themselves, conducted very similar research….so I fit right in.

The 2.5 day conference may not have been my area of expertise, but I still learned a lot, and will use a lot!

Invited Conference Presentation at SUDA: The Swedish Ploy of Promoting Equal Parenting

At the end of October 2015, I had the opportunity to present some of my research at Stockholm University Demography Unit‘s (SUDA) colloquium.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 9.31.03 PM

I have neverleader5466 been invited to or involved in a colloquium like this; although now I understand what the term “conference paper” means. So I came a few weeks early to 1) see how a colloquium operates and 2) to meet a research rockstar, Dr. Linda Haas (this proved extra fruitful, because she let me discuss my research with her, as well as interview her about fatherhood in Sweden. In other words, take the opportunities to meet your research heroes–the just may turn out to be as nice and great as you’d expect).

While many research groups hold monthly seminars/presentations, a colloquium like at SUDA asks participants to share a copy of their manuscript, as well as to provide a presentation.

This involves work!

Most of the time, I create a presentation a couple of days before the actual talk. Now I need to send an entire manuscript at least one week ahead of my scheduled talk, to allow researchers time to read and critique my work.

reading-297450_960_720

On one hand, this is a bit daunting, because you want to write well (so as not to embarrass yourself on a given topic), while also not coming so far in the publication timeline, that comments will be unhelpful (e.g. if the manuscript has already been submitted, or worse, accepted).

So I picked a topic I had thought about, but hadn’t yet written about. Plus, this would motivate me to take time out of the summer to focus on this manuscript.

I gave a presentation entitled: The Swedish Ploy of Promoting Equal Parenting: Paradoxes in Policy Implementation Regarding Paternal Involvement in Childcare

*Clearly, I enjoy a good alliteration.

Since this is still a work in progress, I won’t upload the manuscript, but in the presentation I discussed the ways in which fathers are told via society to be good fathers, while at the same time, highlighting the various paradoxes of how organizations hold fathers back.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 6.57.43 PM
Click on the picture to see the presentation.

I pay specific attention to the Swedish child health field, workplaces, and maternal gatekeeping, as well as to policy barriers, especially the Swedish parental leave act.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAOoAAAAJDc5MzNkZjFiLWFkOTUtNDMwNi05MDFlLWM3NWRkN2ZjNDk3Yg

Unlike other seminar series that I’ve attended, I was the only speaker. So after my presentation (about 20 minutes), I then had 40 minutes of questioning from the audience.

This was fabulous, as long as I remembered to accept their comments, rather than being defensive (I always feel I have to defend my baby). Hearing the comments though was great–not because I had persuaded all of the audience (far from it), but because they gave me new directions to go down, topics to clip out, and insights to make certain arguments stronger.

I was not only impressed from the level of audience participation (especially from advice from Dr. Ann-Zofie Duvander), but of SUDA’s entire colloquium; where they are always bringing in new researchers, often from various parts of the world. This not only allows researchers to share their latest findings, but also allows those working at SUDA a chance to hear from and critique many different types of researchers.

I strongly recommend participating in and hosting your own colloquiums!

Barnhälsovårdens nationella forskningsnätverk: Presenting a Replicated Study

In the fall of 2015, the Child Health and Parenting (CHAP) Research Group organized and led their first conference for about 30 professionals in the Swedish child health research field.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 9.14.22 PM
Click on the picture to see the full program.

Most of the attendees were from CHAP or CHESS, with a few extra researchers and professionals sprinkled in (e.g. Uppsala’s barnombudsman).

Topics discussed were typically informative regarding various research projects, as opposed to specific outcomes of a particular study (although these results were also sometimes presented).

The conference was one day, and included a fabulous lunch and fika. Since it consisted of a smaller gathering, the lunch and fika breaks gave ample opportunity to speak with other colleagues and (re)establish relationships.

All in all, the Barnhälsovårdens nationella forskningsnätverk first conference was a huge success, and I look forward to there being more of these conferences.

My Presentation
I presented the only English seminar on preliminary results of a replicated study regarding Child Health nurses’ attitudes of fathers’ involvement at the child health centers.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 9.07.09 PM
Click on the picture to see the full presentation.

Massoudi et al. (2011) had gathered data on Child Health nurses in 2004, and in 2013, Malin Bergström gathered the same data to see the extent to which their attitudes have changed.

It turns out that the Child Health nurses are now more accepting of fathers compared to a decade earlier regarding four main points:

  1. Mothers are instinctively better at caring for infants than fathers.
  2. Fathers must learn what mothers know intuitively.
  3. Fathers are as sensitive to infants’ needs as mothers.
  4. Except breastfeeding, there are no differences between mothers’ and fathers’ ability to relate to and care for their infant.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 9.10.04 PM

In addition, unlike Massoudi et al., age no longer predicts their views of fathers, suggesting that those with the most traditional views after retired or changed positions.

However, Child Health nurses are still much more likely to talk about parenthood with mothers (89%) than with fathers (30%).

So, although their attitudes have become more egalitarian regarding mothers’ and fathers’ caring abilities, they still provide significantly more support to mothers.

There are also differences regarding the amount of support Child Health nurses provide based on the socio-economic status of the neighborhood, with poorer and middle income areas providing more support to parents than wealthier areas.

Change towards equality in parenting is happening on all fronts, but within the Swedish child health field, it is slow progress.

Meeting My Research Rockstar: Foiled Again

Every new academic has people they look up to…and not just their advisors. The word “affair” maybe taking it too far, but they often reference them often, and by last name only.

Such phrases as “Schoppe’s article talks about” or “Lang’s theoretical symposium discusses…” or “Wellander’s conceptual framework is an underpinning for…”

Yes, these professors exist. To us, they’re known as rockstars!

Professor rockstars = ultimate nerdom.

For me, this is Lamb.

sheep-160041_960_720

No, Dr. Michael Lamb from Cambridge University.

image_normal

I had a chance to meet him back in 2010 at the Society for Cross Cultural Research. Alas, I was too afraid to introduce myself. I, a very outgoing guy, couldn’t build up the nerve to say hi.

Afterall, what do you really say:

Thankful: “I love your work.”                                                                                                                                      -Lame

Idolizing: “You’re my hero.”                                                                                                                                      -Overeager

Developing Researcher: “I want to be like you when I grow up.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      -Classless

Academic speak: “I read your latest paper on the transitive properties of parenthood….”                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Pompous

Relatable: “Hi, I also do ground breaking work on fatherhood.”                                                                                                                             -Arrogant
Side note: I had a chance to work at the Indianapolis 500 for four years in the pagoda–the tall building where all of the celebrities go.

SONY DSC
Indianapolis 500 Pagoda

I took dozens of celebrities up and down the elevator making small talk. I got to talk with Michael Madsen (seemed like a really good dad). I even had to push Jesus (Jim Caviezel) for being a little disorderly. And I was left alone with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson (along with their bodyguard); having a fifteen minute conversation with Nick and his massive bodyguard, while Jessica freshened up for singing the national anthem.

A 15 second talk to one of my research hero’s: couldn’t do it.

I knew from the conference program that Lamb would be at SRCD in Philadelphia, so I was determined to meet him this time.

The conference was coming to a close, but I managed to make it to one of his talks (or more specifically some of his students’/coresearchers’ talks).

IMG_1037
Lamb making his opening statements about the symposium.

How do I start a conversation with Lamb, I thought. Afterall, I didn’t want it to turn into a rehash of SCCR.

I’ll ask them a question about their research, became my conclusion.

After the presentation, I raised my hand, and asked my important question on same-sex research. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I do remember that I mentioned that I came from Sweden and that Lamb, as opposed to the speaker, answered me.

Yes! I thought. Now I have an excuse to just say Hi. 

Mind youman-146128_960_720all I want to do is just say Hi. And these are the lengths and the numerous thoughts that are zipping through my head to accomplish my (simple) goal.

The talk ended. Questions were over. I stood up and started making my way toward a guy whose work I had religiously read while earning my master’s and PhD and now was my time to let him know that I existed.
“Hej, hur mår du? Jag kommer från Malmö, [Hi, how are you? I’m from Malmo]” said a woman who was now standing between Lamb and myself.

She was quite pleasant, and we had a great conversation. Even knowing some of the same people.

But this talk took too long. I watched Lamb leave the room. I briefly thought about sending him an email, but that never transpired.

So, another conference, another day–perhaps I’ll get a chance to say hi to one of my academic rockstars.

Anti-climatic – what new researcher can’t relate?

Society for Research on Child Development 2015: My Poster Presentation on Head Start Preschool Teacher Retention and Teacher Turnover

The Society for Research on Child Development 2015 Conference took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

While the conference and its accommodations were quite ritzy:

IMG_1116
Part of my hotel room; A hotel recommended by the conference organizers.

The rest of Philadelphia seemed to be in need of a face lift.

IMG_1031
Man warms himself on the bitterly cold streets of Philadelphia.

Even still, the conference goes on.

I had the fortune of having my submission accepted as a poster. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to have an oral presentation. In oral presentations you have a chance to meet more researchers; plus, I felt like I could tell a good story about my research.

But you have to make the best of things, and I was able to have several one-on-one conversations with other researchers.

IMG_0959

At SRCD, I had the opportunity to discuss the findings from my research on why Head Start preschool teachers quit or stay teaching. I developed a questionnaire that I gave to newly hired Head Start preschool teachers at the beginning of the school year, and then halfway through the school year, used those results to predict who stayed and who quit teaching.

Five factors differed between those who stayed and those who quit teaching. Additionally, the more risk factors an individual have (the highest possible being 5), the more likely they were to quit.

Practitioners can use this information to make needed changes in order to decrease their turnover rates.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 2.33.58 PM

These findings were later accepted as an article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly (the best early childhood education journal, and the 11th best education journal, according to their impact factor)!

Society for Research on Child Development 2015: Presentations and Posters

The Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD) 2015 Conference took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

It was held in a grandiose old train station/hotel.

IMG_0955

I had been looking forward to this conference for 8 years! See, SRCD was the first conference I ever attended, back in 2007 in Boston when I was a master’s student. I didn’t realize the quality or size of the conference until I had other conferences I could compare it to.

The opening speech was well-intentioned and important, but about 20 years behind Sweden, as it discussed equality, especially between genders.

IMG_0956

SRCD is absolutely one of the biggest (thousands of participants) and has some of the highest quality (ground-breaking research, major grant holders, complex statistical methods) presentations. In fact, it’s the only conference that has ever rejected one of my submissions.

*Not that those who receive a large grant from the NIH or                                     those who do complex statistics necessarily do amazing                                     research, but if you want to get a bigger grant, at least via                                   attending can inform you what others have done to receive                               it…or learn (or at least be aware of) more complex stats.

IMG_0980IMG_0987IMG_0993IMG_0974IMG_0995

The conference is clearly made for psychologists, although there are people from other backgrounds participating (e.g. public health, social medicine, sociology).

I don’t know the correct percentage, but I noticed a pattern when it came to the symposia I attended:  All three/four talks were related; and I’m not just referring to their subject matter. Either the researchers all new each other or, more commonly, they all worked together in some capacity (e.g. receiving the same type of grant from the same funding agency, all working for one main boss, but having separate and disparate research as individuals).

This translates into the lone wolf finding it difficult to ever be involved in a symposium, even if their research is highly related to other talks and of high quality.

As such, you see a lot of students (and others) left to present posters (albeit high-quality posters).

IMG_1013IMG_1051IMG_1050IMG_1047IMG_1015

This amused me, if for no other reason than normally posters aren’t the most high quality–and at SRCD, many of them are; and they will go on to be published in top journals.

In other words, if you don’t get to present in a symposium at SRCD–you’re not alone; and it’s not necessarily a judgement on the quality of your research.

While many conferences in the USA (as compared to Europe and Australia) do not provide lunches; forcing attendees to fend for themselves. However, SRCD did provide some snacks, and even a few games, one evening, creating a fun atmosphere.

IMG_0962

Overall, a great experience, in an historic city, and I can’t wait to attend again in two years.