New professor with children and family in focus

"Being a researcher means that you have to be a knowledge junkie. I'm one of those, I am completely into learning new things. Not when it comes to everything, but what I am interested in, I want to learn more about," says Disa Bergnehr, one of the university's new professors in pedagogical work.

Her primary research interest is children and family and how families' lives are connected to society at large, for example through preschool and school. The structures that exist in society are important, but it is equally important to see the individual as an actor, she says. Life at school or at preschool is affected by what happens in the everyday life of the family, and the lives of the families are influenced by, for example, laws regulating schools and by the different professions that exist in the school and in the preschool.

That the interaction between family life and the outside world can be expressed in many ways is something that is reflected in Disa Bergnehr's research. In recent years she has, among other things, studied the collaboration between home and school, how single mothers have been represented in Swedish press, and how children can learn to socialise through touch or lack of touch in preschool.

Parental role in a new country

"I think it is exciting to look at different types of families, as different socio-economic circumstances provide different conditions. This doesn't mean that any conditions are better than any others, just that they are different," she says.

Much of her research work has been devoted to following immigrant families during their first year in Sweden. How do they view their parenting in a new country, and how is the relationship between child and parent affected by being in a new country?

"Often, the children learn the language much faster than their parents, and that creates another dynamic in the relationship between the parents and the children than the one that we are used to seeing, one in which the children need to act as an interpreter for the parents out in the community," she says.

When she talks about her research, she is very careful to recognise the colleagues she has collaborated with in various projects, and it is obvious that she has a network throughout the country. Next in turn, however, is an international collaboration, where she, together with colleagues from England and Norway, want to learn even more about how it is to be a child and a parent in a new country. An application for funding for this has been submitted to a research council, and hopefully it will be possible to conduct this research in the future.

"Doing this kind of study with colleagues from other countries is very good. In this manner, we can see in a completely different way which results are more universal, and which have to do with Swedish- specific conditions. Even just that information gives us even more knowledge to build upon," she concludes.

Read more

More about the university's research in Pedagogical work

Text: Helen Rosenberg
Photo: Suss Wilén
Translation: Eva Medin