Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

We begin by considering briefly the evolution of the family, its cross-cultural variability, and its history in the West. We next examine how the family is currently defined in the U.S., discussing different views about what families should look like. Class and ethnic variability and the effects of changing gender roles are discussed in this section. We next look at sexuality, traditional and non-traditional marriage, parenting, divorce, family violence, family economics, poverty, and family policy. Controversial issues dealt with include day care, welfare policy, and the "Family Values" debate.


In addition to written work, students are expected to keep up with all assigned readings (approximately 100 pp. a week). You must attend class and recitation and actively participate in the discussion, or your grade will suffer. You will lose credit if you miss more than three lectures or recitations. Sports events are not excused absences. Participation in discussion counts 10% of grade. Written work counts 70% and the final exam counts 20%.

The readings assigned for a class session follow the date and title of the session in the syllabus.

Written Work

Includes three seven-page essays. The first deals with the family as personal history; you will write an essay on one or two themes characterizing your own family. The second asks you to analyze the family as a cultural symbol. The third is concerned with a current controversy about the family (e.g., dual-career families, gays and lesbians as parents, welfare reform).

In addition to these formal papers you will write six very brief Reader Responses: short (one paragraph) pieces describing your reaction to one of the readings. These are not graded.

The final exam will be open book, essay format, and based on readings and class lectures.

Written work must be handed in on time (at the end of the class period on the date due) or your grade will be reduced half a letter grade per late day. If you foresee a problem completing a written assignment on time, contact me at least 24 hours before due date to arrange an extension.

Warning: Plagiarism

Plagiarism, presenting someone else's work as your own, comes in two forms, both extremely serious. The first involves using the words of a source, exactly or in very close paraphrase, without proper citation. If you are citing word-for-word, it does not suffice to footnote the source; you must use quotation marks. If you are paraphrasing someone's work, you must fully cite the work, including the exact page number of the page on which the material appears. Do not think that just because work is "in the public domain," on the Net, etc., you do not need to provide a full citation. If it's someone else's work it is not yours and you need to fully cite the source.

The second form of plagiarism involves taking ideas from a source without footnoting the source.

Although sanctions for plagiarism in this course depend on its severity, failing the course is a distinct possibility. Bottom line: this course takes plagiarism very seriously. Suspicious papers immediately get sent to a computer-savvy colleague.

If you have questions about citation, see me. The readings for the course provide good examples of proper citation practice.

Using the Web as a source for the topics you're writing on can often be like trying to find food in a Dempster Dumpster in back of a supermarket. You will eventually find food, but it will take some searching, some of the food will be not to your liking, and some will be rotten and hence inedible. Your best sources will be reliable mainstream magazines and newspapers, and peer-reviewed journals in the various disciplines concerned with the American family: sociology, anthropology, history, psychology. Don't believe everything an article in Time or Newsweek says - most of the articles are biased. But you may use magazines like these as sources.