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Att fostra till föräldraskap: barnavårdsmän, genuspolitik och välfärdsstat 1900-1950
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2003 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The dissertation explores the Swedish child welfare officer system (barnavårdsmannainstitutionen) using gender as an analytical tool. The child welfare officer system was a public program designed to support single mothers and monitor the welfare of children born out of wedlock. The study concentrates on the first half of the 20th century, and particularly covers the introduction of this system in 1917/18 and the changes it underwent in 1938, after an income maintenance law (bidragsförskott) for children of unwed mothers was introduced. In 1917, Sweden was one of the first countries in Europe to introduce legislation that formalized men’s obligations towards children born out of wedlock. Consequently, state officials, called child welfare officers, were required to perform mandatory investigations of paternity. Their task was also to make sure that fathers provided economic support and mothers carried out sufficient care. The 1938 income maintenance law was one of the social policy initiatives of the 1930s. Single mothers were assured payment from the state for child support and the child welfare officers then sought to reclaim the money from the absent father.

The history of the child welfare officer system is used as a case to investigate the power dynamics of gender and class, and the relationship between the state, the social work professionals and the individual citizen, concurrent with the birth of the Swedish welfare state. The political debates, the institutional arrangements and the practices connected to this policy area have been analyzed. Thus, politicians, social workers and unwed mothers and fathers are all brought into focus.

An analytical point of departure is that the welfare state ”does gender”, i.e. that the welfare state regulates and directs the relation between men and women. However, the state is also treated as a complex and changeable entity, where state and welfare policy also functions as a means to change gender relations. Thus, the study argues that the introduction of the child welfare officer system opened up a new public arena for women – as politicians, social workers and as mothers – in which they were able to renegotiate the meaning of gender and their relation to the state. Prevalent ideas of gender were questioned and challenged in the public sphere of politics and labor as well as in the private sphere of the family.

The study consists of a number of empirical chapters in which this social bureaucracy is scrutinized from various perspectives. The child welfare officer system is analyzed both on a national and local level. The latter is done through a case study of the local work in Stockholm. Gender was a vital component to all these levels.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International , 2003. , 380 p.
Stockholm studies in history, ISSN 0491-0842 ; 69
Keyword [en]
gender, welfare state, profession, social work, child welfare, family policy, single motherhood, fatherhood, women’s politics, women’s movement
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-80876ISBN: 9122020349OAI: diva2:557933
Public defence
2003-09-26, 10:00
Available from: 2012-10-01 Created: 2012-10-01 Last updated: 2015-06-18Bibliographically approved

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Bergman, Helena
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