Bitte Modin is a professor of medical sociology at the Department of Public Health Sciences and the Director of CHESS, Centre for Health Equity Studies. Common to practically all of her research is the focus on childhood social disadvantage and its implications for people’s present and future health, as well as the ambition to identify the pathways through which such influences operate. Early experiences and exposures may stem from the larger social environment as well as from the family’s or the child’s own social standing within the various contexts of social life.
In today’s society, the path to a successful socio-economic career and its health-related advantages usually goes via the educational system. Therefore, an issue that often recurs in her research is the role of educational opportunities, either as an outcome in its own right, or as a potential mediator or modifier in the studied relationship. Social support and individual coping strategies are other examples of conditions that can “buffer” against childhood adversity translating into health problems, and constitute additional aspects that permeate her research.
Bitte’s scientific interest can be divided into two broad lines of orientations. The first is concerned with how social inequalities in health are transferred and maintained across family lineages spanning several generations, and the second focuses on how different features of the school context shape and modify present-day youth’s level of stress and mental well-being.
Currently, she is also Director of Doctoral Studies in Public Health.
A selection from Stockholm University publication database
Only the lonely? All-cause mortality among children without siblings and children without friends
2017. Ylva Almquist B, Robin Högnäs, Bitte Modin. European Journal of Public Health 27 (Suppl. 3)Article
In childhood, relations with siblings and friends lie at the core of social interaction. Lacking either type of relationship may reflect lower levels of social support. While social support is known to be negatively associated with premature death, there are still no long-term follow-ups of mortality risks among children without siblings (‘only-children’) and children without friends (‘lonely-children’). The aim of the present study was therefore to examine and compare all-cause mortality in these two groups.
Cox regression analysis was based on a Stockholm cohort born in 1953 (n = 15,117). Individuals were identified as only-children if there were no records of siblings before age 18. Derived from sociometric data collected at age 13, lonely-children were defined as not being nominated by classmates as one of three best friends. The follow-up of all-cause mortality covered ages 20-56.
Both only-children and lonely-children had increased risks of premature mortality. When adjusted for a wide range of family-related and individual factors, the risk ratio for only-children increased in strength whereas the risk ratio for lonely-children was reduced. The former finding may be explained by suppressor effects: for example, both only-children and those whose parents had alcohol problems had higher mortality risks but only-children were less likely to have parents with alcohol problems. The latter finding was primarily due to adjustment for scholastic ability.
It is concluded that while only-children and lonely-children have similar risks of all-cause mortality, the processes leading up to premature death appear to be rather different. Yet, interventions targeted at improving social learning experiences may be beneficial for both groups.
National data study showed that adolescents living in poorer households and with one parent were more likely to be bullied
2017. Sara Brolin Låftman (et al.). Acta Paediatrica 106 (12), 2048-2054Article
The aim of this study was to assess whether sociodemographic household characteristics were associated with which Swedish adolescents were more likely to be bullied.
The data were derived from the Swedish Living Conditions Survey and its child supplements from the survey years 2008-2011. The analyses included information on 3,951 adolescents aged 10-18 years. Exposure to bullying was reported by adolescents and information on sociodemographic household characteristics was reported by parents and obtained from official registers. Binary logistic regression was used to analyse the data.
Adolescents were more likely to be bullied if they lived in households with no cash margin, defined as the ability to pay an unexpected bill of 8,000 Swedish Kronor or about 800 Euros, and if they lived with just one custodial parent. In the unadjusted analyses, elevated risks were identified if adolescents lived in working class households and had unemployed and foreign-born parents. However, these associations were at least partly accounted for by other sociodemographic household characteristics, in particular the lack of a cash margin.
This study showed that Swedish adolescents living in households with more limited financial resources had an increased risk of being bullied, supporting results from previous international research.
School Leadership and Cyberbullying
2017. Sara Brolin Låftman, Viveca Östberg, Bitte Modin. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14 (10)Article
Cyberbullying is a relatively new form of bullying, with both similarities and differences to traditional bullying. While earlier research has examined associations between school-contextual characteristics and traditional bullying, fewer studies have focused on the links to students’ involvement in cyberbullying behavior. The aim of the present study is to assess whether school-contextual conditions in terms of teachers’ ratings of the school leadership are associated with the occurrence of cyberbullying victimization and perpetration among students. The data are derived from two separate data collections performed in 2016: The Stockholm School Survey conducted among students in the second grade of upper secondary school (ages 17–18 years) in Stockholm municipality, and the Stockholm Teacher Survey which was carried out among teachers in the same schools. The data include information from 6067 students distributed across 58 schools, linked with school-contextual information based on reports from 1251 teachers. Cyberbullying victimization and perpetration are measured by students’ self-reports. Teachers’ ratings of the school leadership are captured by an index based on 10 items; the mean value of this index was aggregated to the school level. Results from binary logistic multilevel regression models show that high teacher ratings of the school leadership are associated with less cyberbullying victimization and perpetration. We conclude that a strong school leadership potentially prevents cyberbullying behavior among students.
Bullying in context
2015. Bitte Modin, Sara Brolin Låftman, Viveca Östberg. Journal of School Violence 14 (4), 382-404Article
Using multilevel modeling, this study examined how different types of bullying, involving both peers and teachers, relate to psychosomatic health complaints. Data were obtained via the Stockholm School Survey from 41,032 ninth- and eleventh-grade students in the years 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. Results showed that students involved in bullying as either a bully, a victim, or both a bully and a victim displayed poorer psychosomatic health than those not involved in bullying. Victims of peer-bullying also reported significantly poorer health than perpetrators. Two class-aggregated measures of bullying remained positively associated with ninth-grade student health complaints even when their individual-level analogues were taken into account. Thus, both the proportion of victims of teacher-bullying and peer-bullying in the school class appeared to generate health problems that go beyond the directly exposed students. However, an interaction revealed that the latter association was confined to female students only.