Speaking discourses and silent lips: women and gender-based portraits in sudden infant death publications


  • Inger Brännström PhD, RN

    Independent Researcher, Corresponding author
    1. Epidemiology and Public Health, Umeå, Sweden
    • Correspondence: Inger Brännström, Independent Researcher, Epidemiology and Public Health, Skolgatan 115E, SE, 903 32 Umeå, Sweden. Telephone: +46 (0)90 143585.

      E-mail: inger.brannstrom@datapost.se

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Aims and objectives

To reveal the prominent discourses and assigned social ordering given to women in paediatric research in Sweden concerning the subject of sudden infant death syndrome.


There are no further studies in Sweden and elsewhere, regarding publishing portraits of women's social ordering in nursing research surrounding sudden infant death syndrome.

Design and methods

The material encompassed all 55 articles/comments published by the Swedish Medical Journal 1980–2007 (7 March) as retrieved using selected keywords. The items were accessed in full text, and a discourse analytical approach was used triangulated with feminist theoretical perspectives.


Three main discourses were identified: (1) women as bearers of guilt and accountability, (2) a social ordering where women's biology and lifestyles received great attention together with a tribute to mothers as having the principal responsibility as parent and caregiver and (3) gender-based health policy portrayals showing women/mothers in marginalised social and structural contexts or exposed to one-sided disciplinary penal codes despite the Swedish welfare state having long declared gender equality in its family policies and in paediatric nursing practices.


Although results from this study primarily relate to the Swedish contexts, they may also reflect the dual role in paediatric nursing practices in other countries, that is, (1) as being medical experts on children's health (paediatrics and nursing) and (2) as change agents with regard to childcare and practical recommendations directed to individuals (mothers, fathers, both or other caregivers of infants).

Relevance to clinical practice

The study highlights the needs of not merely seeing the family or the mother as ultimate and individual beneficiaries of medical/practical advice about child-caring duties in infancy. Further studies are encouraged to recognise infant nursing practices, gender equality and safe parenthood in child health research and nursing practices.