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

Spring 2009


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
45665 TTh
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
GEA 114

Course Description

This course focuses on the contemporary American family. Several themes will inform the course. One central theme will be to examine, from several vantage points, why the issue of intimacy appears to have become more salient as persons expand their secondary group interactions in various complex ways.

By way of background for our analysis of the contemporary American family we shall place the contemporary family within the framework of the major changes that have occurred in the United States in recent decades. These changes have been dramatic and far-reaching in their social consequences for the family as a whole and for individual family members in particular. One result is that we have been witnessing considerable public debate and discussion regarding the nature of the family, what it is and what it should be.

More specifically we shall examine some of the major social and cultural changes that have occurred during recent decadesin terms of basic values as well as in the nature of social organizations. Following this introductory section we look rather closely at the social psychological dynamics within family life. After that we will zero in on particular problem areas or special topics. We will introduce these topics by considering the various types of "family arrangements" that have come to exist in the United States. . Another topic will be the changing nature of work and family, an issue that has generated considerable debate in many quarters of U.S. society. Still other topics include the family and the stratification system, the intersection of the family and the educational system, shifting patterns of consumption, and on-going changes in the life course. In addition we shall consider HIV/AIDS and its relationship to the family. Also on our agenda are the problems that arise as more and more burdens are shifted from organizations onto individuals and the family. In all these instances we shall be attentive to the issue of gender as it bears on the changes within the family. These topics are illustrative of the kinds of issues that we shall seek to address as we highlight the on-going struggles by family members in the U.S. to cope with the social and cultural transformations that are occurring in the nation and on the international scene.

On various occasions in the course we shall focus on certain family relationships in other societies, for we learn a great deal about ourselves (and others) by considering what has been taking place in social orders that differ from our own.

Grading Policy

There will be three examinations. I will announce the dates of these during the course of the lectures. The questions on these exams will be drawn from the lectures and the assigned textbooks. These examinations, it should be emphasized, will consist of short-answer questions.

First two exams 75%
Third examination (given on the last day of the course) 25%
Improvement in the student's grades will be considered in assigning the final grade.

Make-up examinations will be given. The questions will call for essay-type answers. Furthermore, the examinations will typically be more difficult than the regular examination. Also in special circumstances the instructor reserves the right to assign extra readings that will be covered in the make-up examination.


Three books are required for the course. In addition there may be a few online items.


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