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Robert Crosnoe, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Spring 2009

SOC 323 • The Family

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
45670 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
BUR 216

Course Description

This course will involve the social psychological study of the American family. We will examine the changing nature of the family throughout American history, looking at how social and cultural currents have transformed the ideology associated with the family as well as the roles of individual members within the family. Family pathologies such as abuse will also be discussed. The unique experiences of different ethnic groups and of non-traditional families will also be examined in an effort to provide an encompassing view of the family as an institution.

In the first third of the course, we will approach the family from a macro-structural perspective, examining the family as a changing cultural, social, and legal construction. Topics discussed in this section of the course include family ideologies and myths as well as family law. In the second third of the course, we will consider different types of families in the U.S. as well as different contexts of family life. Topics discussed in this section of the course include marriage and divorce as well as economic constraints on family life. Finally, the last third of the course moves us inside the home to study the interactions and roles of various family members (e.g., parenting, sibling relationships, family abuse).

The family is a broad area of study, and almost all of us bring some experience to this topic. The purpose of this class is to provide a sociological foundation for a discussion of the family, encouraging students to question their taken-for-granted assumptions about the family, to understand the diversity of family forms in the United States, and to see the linkage between the family and the larger society and culture.

Grading Policy

Students are expected to attend weekly class meetings and complete all readings prior to the class period for which they are assigned and also be ready to contribute to class discussion.

There will be THREE examinations during the semester, the last of which will be given during finals week. The exams will draw from both readings and class lectures. Make-up examinations will not be administered except in extreme circumstances and only if I am notified beforehand. All make-up examinations are 100% essay. Students must also complete ONE paper during the semester. It is to be 7-10 pages in length and should be typed or computer processed. No late papers will be accepted.

Three exams 25% each
One term paper 25%


Cherlin, Andrew J., Public and Private Families, Fifth Edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill College, 2005


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