Tag Archives: Sweden

Swedish Child Health Centers’ Built Environment: Do They Include Fathers?

Swedish child health centers have historically been a place for new mothers and children. We assessed 31 child health centers’ waiting rooms to see the extent to which they included images of mothers, fathers, and children. 75% did not include fathers…at all. Read the full article here.

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Background: Sweden is trying to create a gender equal country and around 97% of all families in Sweden visit the child health centers for routine check-ups, vaccinations, to monitor their child’s growth and development, and to receive parenting advice, either for their specific child’s problems or via parenting groups.

Study Design:Prior to the study, we defined what constituted a mother, father, and/or child environment (or any combination thereof).

 

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Note: None of the environments were father-mother, father-child, or father centered, so those definitions have been removed.

I then visited and took pictures of 31 child health centers throughout Sweden. I visited centers in rich and poor neighborhoods, urban and rural areas, and private and public child health centers.

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Pictures were taken of everything in their waiting room, magazine titles were written down, and all pamphlets that could be handed out to parents were collected.

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I then met up with two co-researchers, where we independently viewed the waiting room via the pictures and samples to determine if that space included the mother, father, and/or child.

The waiting room was determined to be mother, father, and/or child centered as long as at least 25% of the space consisted of that individual; leaving the last 25% to be aimed at any or all of these types of individuals (neutral items [e.g. abstract art, pictures of nature] did not count for or against any individual family member).

The messages on the bulletin boards were broken down using manifest and latent analysis using semiotic visual analysis.

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The magazine readership was sought out

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Results

31 Child Health Centers

  • 12 = Mother-Child Centered
  • 8  = Family-Centered
  • 6  = Child-Centered
  • 2  = Women-Centered
  • 3  = Neutral

The most common waiting room had lots of items for mothers (e.g. images of mothers, magazines that mothers typically read) and toys and books for children, as well as images of children, but very little or nothing for fathers.

In fact, only one category, family-centered, included fathers, while the rest were composed of mothers and/or children.

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Observations

We also observed parents, mothers and fathers, visiting the child health centers to see what they did while in the waiting room–read books, talk on their cell phone, interact with their child, talk with each other….just sit in their chair.

Mothers’ behavior did not change between environments, but fathers were more likely to play with their child and read the brochures/pamphlets if they were in a non-women centered environment (e.g. either family centered or child centered).

Conclusions: People are affected by their environments–people read in libraries, party at concerts, act posh at fine dining establishments. They don’t typically do the reverse (read at concerts and party in libraries).

The child health centers are no different. Their built environment sends messages on who’s welcomed and how they should act.

To further promote involved fathering in child health, the child health centers should rebuild their environments to be more inclusive of fathers.

To help ensure an inclusive waiting room (for all types of people), we created (in Swedish) a checklist they can use!!!

Click here or on the picture to see the full checklist.

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Too Many PhD Positions: Uppsala, Sweden

There are a lot of articles out there on the absurdity regarding the number of PhD students universities bring in (and quickly push out), while neglecting the fostering of high quality researchers.

For example, Larson et al., 2014 suggests that there are too many PhD students to ever replace the professors they worked for. Knowing this, The Economist  argues that the universities see PhD students as “cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour.”

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Larson et al. notes that less than 17% of new PhDs in science, engineering, and health-related fields find tenure track positions within three years after graduating. Three years!  For a less than one-in-five chance of stable employment.

The Times Higher Education states that since there are not enough tenured positions for PhD students to eventually get, many are left to only hold temporary contracts (and have lots of stress).

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The Guardian argues that this emphasis on PhD Students and much less on tenure track positions shows a lack of accountability by the departments and heads of the university.

Clauset et al. (2015) says that you stand a better chance of getting a tenure track position if you attended an elite university. For example, they found gross social inequality when they analyzed their data, noting that just a quarter of all universities in the USA and Canada equate to around 75% of all tenure-track faculty in the USA and Canada.

In the most simple terms: The field is saturated with PhD students.

Lessons:

  1. Go to the best university you can to earn your PhD. Note that “best” does not necessarily mean a) the hardest to get into, b) a good geographical location, or even c) a professor/research you want to work for/with. Best, in this case, means those elite schools that will connect you to the job market.
  2. Professors and various management administrators should work on revising plans to a) hire people who already hold PhDs and b) cut-back on hiring PhD students.
  3. There should be less emphasis placed on professors for hiring PhD students, and more emphasis placed on the quality of research they complete.

I recently checked Uppsala University’s website for job postings.

In rank order of the diversity of the jobs available:

Full professor positions = 0

Associate professor positions = 0

Assistant professor positions = 0

Postdoc positions = 0

Administrative positions = 0

PhD positions = 19

There were no less than 19 PhD positions, and no other career opportunities. In other words, don’t try to find a job in academics after you’re done with that PhD–there are no openings for you.

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New PhD students– you now have four years to find a job. Start looking!

Swedish Gender Equality Defined Poorly by Statistics Sweden

In highlighting 30 years of gender progress, a recent Swedish government report states that gender equality gaps are closing (Statistics Sweden, 2014).

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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.

First Antenatal Visit: Gender issues, limited office hours, and language problems

Prior to the first visit, Lisa called to make an appointment at a prenatal clinic close to our home. Since we wouldn’t meet them for two more weeks, she asked them about what types of food she can and can’t eat while pregnant.

They responded by saying to visit Livsmedelsverket to see the latest food recommendations.

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As a fatherhood researcher that focuses on child health, you might be surprised to learn that I never thought about my research when my girlfriend and I went to our first antenatal visit.

All I could think about was how nervous I was, how nervous she was, and what information we might glean from attending.

So, pure usual, I nervously coughed, hacking out a lung, before entering the building and climbing the stairs.

We had picked a prenatal clinic close to our home, figuring that would be the best option–convenience always has its rewards. It happened to be a public clinic, although I’m not so sure how important that is?

We walked in and patiently waiting in the lounge area for our names to be called. Within minutes, we heard the beckoning sounds of an older, albeit experienced, midwife: “Lisa,” she announced.

We sprung up. She exchanged some quick words with Lisa while shaking her hand. No eye contact was exchanged in my direction, so I hopped in and held out my hand. She shook it, while turning her head, preparing to walk back to her office.

She didn’t even ask my name, I thought. My research came flooding into my mind. It was certainly one thing to read about the misfortune of others, and quite another to experience gender discrimination. My first encounter with a medical profession about my changing role from man and partner to father, and I’m met with an abrupt non-introduction. Shit!

I can’t ever be too judgmental though. After all, I don’t speak much Swedish, so perhaps I need to be more engaged in the conversation in order to garner more attention. Fair enough.

We meandered back to her office, and took two seats opposite the midwife. We asked if it was ok to speak in English, but that Swedish was fine, especially for more complicated questions. The midwife happily agreed, and in shyness, excused her “bad” English. It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I would call it quite good, and so we both reassured her.

She began typing on her computer before asking “Lisa, can you please tell me your email? I’d like to send you some parenting information and information about your upcoming visits.”

Lisa did so. After a couple of other short exchanges with Lisa, such as, what do you do for a living and other small talk, the midwife looked over at me and asked “And what is your name? And can you give me your contact information?”

“Do you want my email address too,” I asked.

“No, I just need your phone number in case we can’t reach Lisa,” she replied.

What the hell! I thought. Why can’t I also be emailed the same information? Oh well, Lisa will just forward the email to me. I gave her my phone number.

Then she proceeded to ask Lisa several questions about her drinking and smoking habits via completing some survey forms.

While Lisa completed the forms I asked, “what are these forms for?”

“Oh, to see if there are any drinking or smoking problems. If so, then we like to recommend places where people can see support, since it’s not healthy to smoke or drink when you’re pregnant,” the midwife politely replied.

So many thoughts went through my head. So my drinking and smoking habits don’t matter for the health of the baby? What if I was an alcoholic–would it benefit my child and the mother, as well as myself, if I also got some support for my habits? Isn’t second-hand smoke not ideal? Can’t I get support if I need it?

It was hard to raise these issues though, since I don’t smoke and only occasionally drink.

“How much is too much drinking during early pregnancy?,” I asked questioningly. I was actually interested in this answer, because I have heard some conflicting reports on if drinking during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy can hurt the baby (plus I had time to kill while Lisa completed the forms).

“Oh, Lisa’s amount is fine,” she said looking at Lisa’s drinking record (side note–the survey asks how much you drink, on average, over the past year–not specifically on how much you’ve been drinking while pregnant).

Her immediate and thoughtless answer really upset me. She clearly hadn’t listened to what my question was, and instead was just trying to calm me from being worried about drinking while pregnant by giving me a non-descript answer. Now I need to inquire more.

I lied (but she doesn’t know that). “Lisa has been doing a lot of drinking since she’s been pregnant. Way more than before being pregnant because of different end of the year parties. So I’m wondering if she has been having too much.”

“No, no, she’s fine,” the midwife answered back quickly.

What the fuck! You didn’t even ask me how much she’d been drinking while pregnant, and yet you can still give an answer basically saying there is no limit to how much she could have drank? I thought, while also simultaneously thinking Oh crap, now Lisa is mad because I just made her sound like she drinks a lot. Maybe I should only stick to issues that actually matter to us, because I’m clearly not getting medical answers.

The visit continued, discussing various issues, like how often we’d come, what week we were in, and other topics we had questions about–like parenting classes in English and their hours of operation.

Around 40 minutes into the meeting, and after me asking several questions to show that I’m engaged in the conversation, the midwife finally asks me “what do you do for a living?”

Now I’m a bit embarrassed. “I research father involvement in the child health field.”

“Oh that’s interesting,” she responded hesitantly. “I have two thoughts about fathers coming here, but maybe it’s because I’m old. Either they need to work and so they can’t come here, or they come here because they are controlling of their partner.”

Wait. What the hell? Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Was she accusing me of being controlling, or just men in general? I can’t be here because I’m interested in my pregnancy? I can’t be here because I want to learn and be involved?  I can’t be here to support my partner in pregnancy? I can’t be here because I want to experience my work first hand? I don’t believe it. Quick, look at Lisa and see if she heard the same thing…..She did, she heard the same thing. 

Well that shut me up. I am no longer engaged in the conversation. I’m not upset, outwardly, but I’ll just want her finish up the visit, so we can get out of there.

The rest of the conversation was pleasant, and we finished about 15-20 minutes later, after talking the ultrasound visit, the various types of tests you could get at that visit, and the prenatal parenting classes.

To their credit, she stated that I could get an interpreter for the parenting classes and that they were going to start up their first fathers’ group class ever, even if she said that reluctantly.

On the way home Lisa started the conversation, “did you hear what she said about fathers?”

“How could I not?,” I replied with disgust.

After a short conversation at home, we decided the closest antenatal clinic isn’t necessarily the best. Not only were there obvious gender issues (especially since both Lisa and me want both of us to be there as often as we can), but there were other problems too–for example, not having parenting classes in English and having limited office hours. Office hours definitely matter for commuting expectant parents, because we need early morning or evening hours. 3pm doesn’t work when you work in another city.

Luckily, this hasn’t deterred me from being involved with my partners and my pregnancy. But it certainly didn’t encourage me to be involved with the child health field. For the record, Lisa didn’t have any problems, and felt ok continuing to go there for her sake, but not for mine. Luckily I have a very supportive partner (plus she would also like a place with longer opening hours).

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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The abstract and link to the full article can also be found on my researchgate page.

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!

 

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.

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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