SOC 323 • The Family
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
In this course we will analyze the family as a social institution, using sociological perspectives. Studying the family can be tricky in that we all have our own experiences being part of families. It is important, then, to go beyond our own experiences to explore both the private aspects of the family as well as public aspects of the family using various kinds of empirical data. Shifting definitions of the family are the context for a brief history of the family. Throughout the course we will explore if and how the family is declining and changing using conservative, liberal, centrist and feminist perspectives. Specific topics will include parental and child roles; gender and social class as stratification systems which influence families; how the family intersects with, is shaped by, and shapes other social institutions, with particular attention to the economy and work as well as state and social policies; and cohabitation, divorce and stepfamilies as three important changes in the US family over the last several decades.
Questions we will address will include:
What is the definition of family? (Why is this a complicated question?)
What social-structural forces shape family processes?
How is the family a gendered institution?
Should government actively attempt to shape families? Support families?
Three ests 20% each
Reading response papers 20%
Sociological journal article summary and discussion questions 10%
Class participation 10%
Coontz, Stephanie, Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, 2006,
New York: Penguin
Skolnick, Arlene S. and Jerome H. Skolnick, (eds.), Family in Transition, 2005, Fourteenth Edition, Boston: Allyn and Bacon
A collection of readings available for purchase.