A Professional Field? Educational Attainments, Gender and Age Among Staff in Swedish Residential Care

David Pålsson, Peter Andersson, Emelie Shanks, Stefan Wiklund


In this article, the authors discuss residential staff in Sweden where residential care is part of the municipal child welfare system, which covers services targeting juvenile delinquency as well as other residential care services. Children and young people placed in Swedish residential care have diverse needs, from mainly supportive needs to advanced behavioral problems, and the field consists of open and secure residential care units.

There is limited knowledge about the staff working in residential care. This article helps to fill this knowledge gap by giving an overall picture of staff educational attainments, age and gender in Swedish residential care between the years of 2008–2020. To reason about staff qualifications, we use theoretical concepts from sociological theory on professions.

Findings show that residential care in Sweden can be analyzed as a preprofessional field, dominated by staff with low levels of education. In addition, we show that the field is dominated by women – even if the proportion of men is higher than in other areas of social work – and that the majority of staff are between 30 and 64 years old. Some differences between open and secure residential care were found, the most notable concerning educational levels and gender.