Balancing acts: Policy frameworks and family care strategies in Norway

What is the practical and emotional reality of combining paid work and care in a highly developed universal welfare state with high levels of employment of women and strong institutional and ideological support for the dual earner–dual carer model? In this chapter we explore this question using Norway as a case, and drawing on qualitative interviews with both parents of young children and adults who have care responsibilities for older family members or relatives. Using the caringscapes/carescapes framework as sensitizing concepts, we discern two distinct contextual configurations or carescapes. For childcare, there is a standardised cultural script related to responsibilities and timing of transitions, which is supported by an extensive and integrated policy package. Caring for the elderly, in contrast, takes place in a weaker and more fragmented policy context. Caring for the elderly is not embedded in different policy-frameworks regarded as contributing to a higher aim, like gender equality or the best development of the next generation. Nevertheless, we also find that for parents of young children, living up to the new norm of full time work and institutionalization of childcare from an early age, raises new challenges and ambiguities.

Read the chapter:

Bjørnholt, Margunn; Stefansen, Kari;  Gashi, Liridona and Seeberg, Marie Louise (2017). Balancing acts: Policy frameworks and family care strategies in Norway. In Tomáš Sirovátka and Jana Válková (eds), Understanding Care Policies in Changing Times: Experiences and Lessons from the Czech Republic and Norway (pp. 161–184). Masaryk University Press/Centre for Studies of Democracy and Culture. Sociology Series. Volume No. 17. ISBN 978-80-7325-424-7.

Intimate partner violence – gender, equality and power

In January 2016 I join the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) as a research professor, to head a 3-year research project on intimate partner violence, with particular emphasis on gender, equality and power relations. The project is funded by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and is part of a research program on violence in close relationships, which NKVTS has been tasked by the government with implementing.

Modern Men: A Norwegian 30-Year Longitudinal Study of Intergenerational Transmission and Social Change

This work addresses men, intergenerational transmission and social change, within the context of the change in the theorising and politicising of gender relations in the Nordic countries from the 1950s onwards.

Continue readingModern Men: A Norwegian 30-Year Longitudinal Study of Intergenerational Transmission and Social Change

Counting on Marilyn Waring: new advances in feminist economics

This edited volume maps new advances in theories and practices in feminist economics and the valuation of women, care and nature since Marilyn Waring’s groundbreaking critique of the system of national accounts, If Women Counted (1988). It features theoretical, practical and policy oriented contributions, empirical studies, and new conceptualizations, theorizations and problematizations of defining and accounting for the value of nature and unpaid household work, eco-feminism, national and international policy processes, gender budgeting, unpaid care and HIV/AIDS policy, activism and artwork, and mirrors the wide-ranging impact and resonance of Waring’s work as well as the current frontiers of feminist economics/eco-feminism.

Continue readingCounting on Marilyn Waring: new advances in feminist economics

Study of work–life balance among Polish and Polish–Norwegian couples

Policy and Social Research and two partners, Norwegian Social Research (NOVA) and the Department of Occupational Psychology, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine in Poland, have received a grant from the Polish-Norwegian Research Programme for a study of work–life balance among Polish and Polish–Norwegian couples. The study will be carried out 2013–2016. Read more here.

Side event on the financial crisis, the economic crisis and women CSW 58

I am currently organising, together with Joanna Manganara, the IAW president, a side event on the financial crisis, the economic crisis and women that the International Alliance of Women will host in New York on occasion of the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 10–21 April 2014. I will speak on the “Oil Fund,” creditors’ responsibility for the financial crisis and states’ debt management from a human rights perspective. Read more here.

Changing men, changing times: Fathers and sons from an experimental gender equality study


The aim of this article is to develop a conceptual framework for addressing intergenerational transmission, historical change and agency. The framework is employed to analyse the findings from a longitudinal follow-up study over two generations of men, where couples from Norway participated in an experimental research study, the Work-Sharing Couples Project, which aimed to promote egalitarian work–family adaptations in the early 1970s. The original study was based on both spouses working part-time and shift parenting. The follow-up study concluded that the untraditional work–family arrangement had not been passed on to the sons. The article develops a multidimensional analysis of the work–family adaptations of men in two generations: the untraditional adaptation of fathers in the 1970s; and the neo-traditional adaptations of sons in the 2000s.

In developing a four-dimensional approach to intergenerational transmission and social change, the article contributes to the study of intergenerational transmission through the comparison of situated agency in different generations and time/spaces. Taking into account different aspects of time and space, personal biography, discursive and material structures of opportunity, and intergenerational dynamics at the family level as well as at social level, the article contributes to theorising longitudinal qualitative research by linking the micro-level to the macro-level.

Cite this work

Bjørnholt, Margunn (2014). Changing men, changing times; fathers and sons from an experimental gender equality study (PDF). The Sociological Review. Published online ahead of print 23 April 2014. doi: 10.1111/1467-954X.12156.

‘Am I rambling?’ On the advantages of interviewing couples together

This article addresses a methodological controversy regarding the question of whether couples should ideally be interviewed together or apart. It draws on three different studies in which joint couple interviews were used either as the sole source of data or in combination with individual interviews. The authors focus on the specifics and strengths of joint couple interviews, and they argue that interviewing couples together has several advantages, such as solving the ethical problems of anonymity and consent among interviewees, and results in the production of rich data, including observational data. Furthermore, the authors point to the practical advantages of conducting joint interviews with couples. In taking a relational view of the self and of what is produced in research interviews, the authors propose to apply the concept of family display, originally proposed by Janet Finch. It is argued that the researcher may be seen as one of many possible audiences for this type of family practice.

Bjørnholt, Margunn; Farstad, Gunhild Regland (2012). ’Am I rambling?’ On the advantages of interviewing couples together. Qualitative Research. Published online ahead of print 28 September 2012. doi:10.1177/1468794112459671.

Read the article here.