Photo of Peter Holmqvist

Peter Holmqvist

Associate Professor, Head of Unit

I study children's health and development from historical and sociological perspectives. I am especially interested in how Swedish children's mental health has been understood, theorized, and acted upon by experts, professionals, and other actors.

Children's health and development from historical and sociological perspectives

Children's health and development often raise many questions. How does a child develop? What do children need to be healthy? And what are the causes of children's ill-health, and what kinds of support, help, and interventions from society do they need? In my research I approach questions such as these from historical and sociological perspectives.

Children and young people's mental ill-health in Swedish media

In my thesis, I examined how child psychological and psychiatric knowledge has been conveyed via Swedish media during the years 1968-2008. I showed that the discussions in the media included different definitions, explanations, and understandings regarding mental illness, and that these also shifted over time and between media formats. It was thus possible to distinguish everything from an alarmist framing where the mental illness of children and young people was presented as an acute public health problem, to a stance where almost all perceived problems were presented as normal and transitory aspects of children's development. Rather than seeing mental illness among children and young people as a uniform and coherent phenomenon, the results of the thesis illustrate the necessity to understand the media discussions about, and concerns about, the mental ill health of children and young people against the background of specific, and historically shifting, forms of child psychological and psychiatric expertise .

The history of autism

I am also interested in the history of autism in Sweden and, together with a colleague, am starting a historical project with a focus on studying the Swedish discussions about the diagnosis of autism, during the period approx. 1960-2010. We want to better understand how the diagnosis of autism has been defined and explained by Swedish experts, professionals and civil society actors, and how this has changed over time in relation to changing values, institutional landscapes and perceptions of children and childhood.

Children and young people in social work

In conclusion, I am interested in theories about and methods of working with children and young people in social work. This interest concerns, among other things, the historical development of various institutional contexts where children and young people have been received and placed; specific psychological and psychiatric theories about children and young people's health and development and how these have colored social care; working methods for the investigation, assessment and treatment of children and young people such as Barns behov i centrum (BBIC); as well as the role that civil society organizations, for example associations for young adults or parents' associations, have played in influencing views on issues relating to mental health and child development.

Teaching and leadership

I mainly teach at the Social Work Programme and have, among other things, been course manager and participated in courses related to sociology, social and developmental psychology, interview methodology, and children and young people in community care.

Nowadays, I am also head of unit and director of studies at the department for social work.



Peter Holmqvist (2024) Book Review: Affect, Alienation, and Politics in Therapeutic Culture: Capitalism on the Skin by Suvi Salmenniemi Acta Sociologica Continue to DOI


Anna Sparrman, Yelyzaveta Hrechaniuk, Olga Anatoli Smith (Ivanova), Klara Andersson, Deniz Arzuk, Johanna Annerbäck, Linnea Bodén, Mindy Blaise, Claudia Castañeda, Rebecca Coleman, Florian Eßer, Matt Finn, Daniel Gustafsson, Peter Holmqvist, Jonathan Josefsson, Peter Kraftl, Nick Lee, Karín Lesnik-Oberstein, Sarah Mitchell, Karin Murris, Alex Orrmalm, David Oswell, Alan Prout, Rachel Rosen, Katherine Runswick-Cole, Johanna Sjöberg, Karen Smith, Spyros Spyrou, Kathryn Bond Stockton, Affrica Taylor, Ohad Zehavi, Emilia Zotevska (2023) Child Studies Multiple: Collaborative play for thinking through theories and methods Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, Vol. 15 Continue to DOI


Sofia Littmarck, Peter Skagius, Karin Zetterqvist Nelson (2020) Autismens historia [The history of autism] -: en internationell forskningsöversikt [an international research overview] Scandia, Vol. 86, p. 101-118 Continue to DOI
Peter Skagius, Karin Zetterqvist Nelson (2020) Den konstanta oron [The constant anxiety]: Barns och ungas psykiska ohälsa i svensk dagspress 1968-2008 [Child and young peoples mental illness in the Swedish daily press 1968-2008] Scandia, Vol. 86, p. 32-59
Peter Skagius (2020) "Don't worry": Figurations of the child in a Swedish parenting advice column. History of Psychology, Vol. 23, p. 154-175 Continue to DOI


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