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I am currently heading a research project on intimate partner violence, with particular emphasis on gender, equality and power relations, funded by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security. Other major topics of my research have been changes over time and generations in men’s work–family practices and gender relations, and migration and social change.​​ My research has also spanned a number of other topics, including policy analysis, the welfare state, theories of social justice, human rights, financial institutions from the perspective of social movement theory and neo-institutionalism, feminist economics, working life, public sector reform and management, and the material, institutional and symbolic production and contemporary use of cultural heritage. Common themes in my research are a preoccupation with the ways in which practices are shaped by and shape contexts, the social production of knowledge, ideologies and policies, and the dynamics between knowledge production, ideologies, policies and practices.​

My recent and ongoing research projects include

  1. Intimate partner violence – gender, equality and power
  2. EFFECT: Cross-national Polish–Norwegian project on work–life balance
  3. Economic citizenship and equal parenthood
  4. Men as change agents – work-sharing fathers and their sons

Intimate partner violence – gender, equality and power (2016–2019)

I am currently heading a 3-year research project at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) on intimate partner violence, with particular emphasis on gender, equality and power relations. The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security.

Cross-national Polish–Norwegian project on work–life balance (project period 2013–2016)

A cooperation between Policy and Social Research, Norwegian Social Research (NOVA) and the Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine (Poland) and funded by the Polish-Norwegian Research Programme, the project aims to study understandings and practices of work–life balance (WLB) among dual earner couples in Poland and Norway. The research is aimed particularly at WLB measures for couples with young children: paid parental leave, the father’s quota, cash for care benefits and formal daycare.

Research questions include:

  • How is WLB understood by men and women in different parts of the work life and in different policy contexts?
  • How are existing WLB measures used and combined, and what factors are associated with the use of different measures in different parts of the work life and in different policy contexts?
  • On a theoretical level the project will deal with issues such as policy transferability and the relationship between policy measures and social change towards gender equality.


The project is multilevel and will use both quantitative and qualitative methods. A survey will be conducted twice among a sample of employees in both Norway and Poland. For the qualitative part we will use the method of focus groups and interview polish migrants living in Norway with care responsibilities for children under the age of 6 (either in Norway, Poland or both). Focus groups will also be conducted in Poland, among Polish working parents and in Norway, among Norwegian working parents. For the focus groups we will recruit men and women from different parts of the work life – aiming to sample both middle-class / professional families (academics, health workers) and working-class / non-professional families (construction work, cleaning, service work).

Read more about this project

Economic citizenship and equal parenthood

This project is funded by the Ministry of Education and explores recent developments in feminist legal theories and social justice, drawing on the ideas of and in collaboration with the feminist legal theorist Martha Albertson Fineman, Emory University School of Law, the director of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project, and her current research programme, Vulnerability and the Human Condition, which is directed at finding new ways to view the individual within society and reformulate the basis for social justice. The vulnerability approach takes the human condition of shared vulnerability as its general point of departure for reformulating the basis for justice and for the relations between individuals and society. This implies a critique of the view of the individual as free and autonomous, as commonly expressed in other theories of justice and traditional jurisprudence. If we instead ground our understanding of the human being on the concepts of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘dependency,’ we come to the conclusion that there is a need for a more responsible welfare state. The implications of the vulnerability approach are possibly far-reaching and it could have wide-ranging implications even in the Nordic countries.

In this project I engage in a collaborative and interdisciplinary effort to explore the potential and relevance of the vulnerability approach in a Nordic context. As part of the project I was a visiting scholar at Emory University School of Law in 2012; the project has also included a workhop with Fineman in Oslo in August 2012, exploring the relevance of the vulnerability apporach in a Nordic context.

So far the project has resulted in the following publications and conference papers:

  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2013). Introduction: Vulnerability as a basis for justice and equality in the Nordic countries, Retfærd: Nordic Journal of Law and Justice, 36(3), 1–8
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2013). The vulnerability approach: A way of bridging the equality–difference dilemma? Retfærd: Nordic Journal of Law and Justice, 36(3), 25–44.
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2012). Economic gender justice – the responsibility of women or the state? Paper, Gender and law in the Nordic Countries, Europe and globally. WELMA (Legal Studies in Welfare and EU Market Integration) research seminar 12-14 September, University of Copenhagen.
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2012). The vulnerability approach to gender equality—a way of bridging the sameness–difference dilemma? Paper, Vulnerability workshop, Oslo, 14-15 August 2012. The Nordic Women’s University, co-organised with the research group Law and Vulnerabilities, Faculty of Law, Lund University.
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2012). The political is personal: policies of life course harmonization and privatization of consequences of gendered life course choices―the case of parenting and couple relationships in Norway. Paper presented at Privatization and Social Responsibility A Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative & Feminism and Legal Theory Project Workshop. February 17th & 18th, 2012. Emory University School of Law

Men as change agents – work-sharing fathers and their sons (part of the project Work-sharing couples – men in change and intergenerational transmission)

This study is a longitudinal follow-up study of the Work-Sharing Couples Project, an experimental research project that was carried out in Norway in the early 1970s. Its aim was to change gendered patterns of breadwinning and care through both spouses working part-time and sharing domestic work and childcare. My research focuses on the work-sharing men and intergenerational transmission within a father-son design. What were the work-sharing men’s motivations, and the consequences for them over the life course, as husbands, fathers and for their careers, of their working part time and sharing household work? Have the untraditional work-family arrrangements in their parental homes influenced adult sons’ work-family adaptations? How can fathers’ and sons’ work-family adaptations, respectively, be understood in relation to contemporary discourses and structures of opportunity in the 1970s and today? As a longitudinal and intergenerational empirical study of men who promoted an egalitarian pattern of work and care, the  study represents a historically informed contribution to current research and discussions of men, work, care and gender equality.

The study was carried out at the University of Oslo Department of Sociology and Human Geography in collaboration with Professor Tone Schou Wetlesen, and was funded by the Research Council of Norway under the FRISAM programme. A pilot study was funded by the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs and the Department of Sociology and Human Geography.

So far, this project has resulted in the following publications

  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2014). Modern Men: A Norwegian 30-Year Longitudinal Study of Intergenerational Transmission and Social Change (PDF). Örebro Studies in Gender Research, 3. Örebro: Örebro University. ISBN 91-7529-027-0.
  • 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.
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2014). Theorising love, work and family in early Norwegian family research and today. In Anna G. Jónasdóttir and Ann Ferguson (eds), Love—A Question for Feminism in the Twenty-First Century. London/New York: Routledge (Routledge Advances in Feminist Studies and Intersectionality). ISBN 0415704294.
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn; Farstad, Gunhild Regland (2012). ’Am I rambling?’ On the advantages of interviewing couples together (PDF). Qualitative Research, 14(1), 3–19. Published online ahead of print 28 September 2012. doi:10.1177/1468794112459671.
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2012). From work-sharing couples to equal parents. Changing perspectives of men and gender equality. In Maria Jansdotter Samuelsson, Clary Krekula, Magnus Åberg (eds), Gender and Change. Power, Politics and Everyday Practices (pp. 53–72). Karlstad: Karlstad University Press. ISBN 978-86637-05-7.
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2011). How Men Became the Local Agents of Change towards Gender Equality. Journal of Gender Studies, 20(1), 3–18 (DOI) (PDF).
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2010). Like Father, Like Son? The Transmission of Values, Family Practices and Work-Family Adaptations to Sons of Work-Sharing Men. Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research and Practice about Men as Fathers, 8(3), 276–299. (DOI) (PDF)
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2010). Part-Time Work and the Career and Life Choices of the Men from the Work-Sharing Couples Study. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion29(6), 573–592. (DOI) (PDF)
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2010). Den norske likedelingsmodellen – fra samfunnskritikk til hegemonisk styringsmodell [The Norwegian model of gender equality – from social critique to hegemonic state steering]. Sosiologi i dag, 40(1–2), 35–56. (PDF)
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2009). Fathers and sons – gender socialization and intergenerational transmission revisited. NORMA – Nordic Journal for Masculinity Studies, 4(1), 83–102. (PDF)
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2009). Norwegian Work-Sharing Couples Project 30 years later. Revisiting an experimental research project for gender equality in the family. Equal Opportunities International, 28(4), 304–323. (DOI) (PDF)
  • Bjørnholt, Margunn (2009). ”The unhappy marriage of men and gender equality”. Paper, ”Men and Masculinities, Moving On! Embodiments, Virtualities, Transnationalisations”, GEXcel – Centre of Gender Excellence, Linköping University, 27–29 April 2009. Published in Alp Biricik and Jeff Hearn (eds.) GEXcel Work in Progress Report Volume VI, Centre of Gender Excellence, 2009.