My academic background is in both clinical and developmental psychology. For several years, I worked as a clinician with troubled children and their families, and since 1994 I am Professor of Applied Psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg. My research focuses on child development, fatherhood and the linkages between gender, family and work in post-industrialized societies.
The experiences relevant to fatherhood that have influenced me the most have to do with my own father; my role as a father, stepfather and grandfather; and four decades of research on fatherhood.
My father was born and raised in China but lived most of his life in Sweden (my mother was German and I was born in Sweden). As none of my parents spoke fluent Swedish, I was raised with two languages, English and Swedish, in addition to two languages that I more or less never heard in my home, Chinese and German. (When my parents got really agitated they would revert to their mother tongue which meant that they were unable to understand each other, like a scene from a Woody Allen movie!) Rather early it became clear to me that Sweden was (and is) a rather homogenous society and my father’s views on fatherhood and family were definitely quite different from mainstream Swedish views.
My greatest experience of fatherhood, however, is being a father of four sons, the stepfather for two boys and a girl and the grandfather for two small children, a girl and a boy. After having watched my own children grow up, it has been a fascinating experience getting to know and love my stepchildren who in some ways were similar but also very different from my own children. Being a grandfather and having grandchildren is of course also amazing and lots of fun. But as the comedy writer Gene Perret puts it: “My grandkids believe I’m the oldest thing in the world. And after two or three hours with them, I believe it, too”.
I am currently involved in three large scale research projects dealing with fatherhood:
- The Gothenburg Longitudinal Developmental Study (GoLD), a more than 30-year prospective longitudinal study of Swedish participants whom we have followed from age one until recently when they were 34 years old. We also followed their fathers and mothers. I am overseeing this project together with my friend Michael E. Lamb, my wife Ann Frisén and my colleague Maria Wängqvist. Our most recent interests deal with the emerging adults’ thoughts and feelings about present and future parenthood.
- The Impact of the Workplace on Men’s Involvement with Children. Since 1993, my friend Linda Haas, an American sociologist, and I have performed a series of studies investigating the links between gender equity, work-family balance and organizational change.
- A final project concerns postnatal depression, anxiety, and stress in fathers. The overall aim is to learn more about depression, anxiety and stress in fathers and how these symptoms can be identified during the postnatal period.
For a summary of some of the research mentioned, please see Linda Haas and my chapter on Fatherhood and Social Policy in Scandinavia in D. Schwalb, B. Schwalb, & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Fathers in Cultural Context (pp. 303-331). New York, NY: Routledge, (2012).