2015SP_SOCIOL_310-0_SEC20 Sociology of the Family

2015SP_SOCIOL_310-0_SEC20 Sociology of the Family

Sociology of the Family (Sociology 310)

Spring Quarter, 2015

Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30 p.m. – 1:50 p.m., 555 Clark St. Room B01


Dr. Christine Wood (c-wood@northwestern.edu)



This course will explore the social and cultural dynamics of families in industrialized countries. We will consider the modern family as an institution with a social and cultural history. The course engages the theoretical and historical definition of family, patterns and shifts in marriage and partner selection trends, and changes in family structures in modern societies. The course begins with an exploration of the meaning of the family in sociological, historical, and cultural terms. Next, we consider marriage and partner selection in historical context, by exploring changes in peoples’ intentions to marry and form families. We then explore the social makeup of families, by discussing changes in family structure and the processes that resulted in those changes, including the rising numbers of women in the workplace and the extension of marriage rights to lesbian and gay couples. Finally, we engage the meaning of the modern family in theoretical terms, by returning to the question of what makes a family, the values inherent to family life, and the possibilities for redefining the meaning of family. 



The course will consist of some lecture and a good deal of discussion. As this is an upper-division course, the emphasis will be on written assignments. Written assignments will focus on the readings and class discussions as well as your own independent research.


The family is an active topic of discussion inside and outside of academia. We will utilize multiple types of media in the course, such as films and news reports. Because the family is a potentially sensitive and controversial topic, students are asked to respect the opinions of their peers during discussions. Students are also encouraged to post links to scholarly and news articles they find relevant on the course discussion board, which is an open space for respectful discussion and dialogue.  Though not required, posts to the board will factor favorably in my assessment of your class participation.




Participation and Attendance: 20%

Attendance is mandatory.  Discussion is a major component of this course, and students should come to class having completed the readings and thought about the material.


Take-Home Midterm Examination: 40%

The take-home final will consist of an essay of 5-7 pages.  You will have one week to complete the assignment. The assignment will draw exclusively on topics and materials discussed in class. I will announce the particulars of the assignment on April 23. The assignment is due in class on April 30.


Short Research Paper:  40%

The paper (10-12 pages) will require you to select an area of interest in family studies (examples abound: the division of household labor, stay-at-home fathers, changes in divorce patterns, same-sex marriage rights), and write a literature review that compares the popular media’s treatment of the issue (choose 5-7 news media articles) with scholarly treatment of the issue (choose 5-7 main academic sources).  At least 3 of the academic sources must not be on the syllabus. I will announce the assignment on May 28. The paper will be due on June 5 by 5 p.m.



Please familiarize yourself with Northwestern’s policies regarding academic integrity: http://www.northwestern.edu/provost/policies/academic-integrity/index.html


Schedule of Reading and Writing Assignments

Part 1: What makes a family?  The Family in Sociological, Historical, and Cultural Context

Tuesday, March 31, 2015: Introduction to the course and welcome


No required reading.


Thursday, April 2, 2015: What Makes a Legitimate Family?


Required Reading:


Meadow, T. and Stacey, J. 2006. “Families.” Contexts 5:4, 55-57.


Moore, M. and Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, M. 2013. “LGBT Sexuality and Families at the Start of the Twenty-First Century.” Annual Review of Sociology 39: 491-507.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015: Kinship and Familial Connection beyond the Nuclear Family


Required Reading:


            Stack, Carol. 1972. “Black Kindreds: Parenthood and Personal Kindreds among Urban

Blacks.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 3:2, 194-206.


Part II: On Marriage and “Mate Preferences:” Marriage and Partnering as Historical Phenomena


Thursday, April 9, 2015: Social Structure, Partner Selection, and the Meanings of Marriage


Required Reading:


Buss, D. et al. 2001. “A Half-Century of Mate Preferences: The Cultural Evolution of Values.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 63: 491-503.


Cherlin, A. 2004. “The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 66: 848-861.


Coontz, Stephanie. 2006. Marriage: A History. Chapter 1.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015: Marriage Rights as a Political Struggle


Required Reading:


Chauncey, G. 2005. Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate over Gay Equality. Chapters 3 and 4.




PART III: Family Structures


Thursday, April 16, 2015: Gender, Work, and Family Structure


            Required Reading:


Percheski, C. 2005. “Opting Out? Cohort Differences in Professional Women’s Employment Rates from 1960 to 2005.” American Sociological Review, 73:3, 497-517.


Smock, P. et al. 2005. “‘Everything’s There except Money:’ How Money Shapes Decisions to Marry among Cohabitors.” Population Studies Center.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015: Gender and the Rise of Dual Career Households, Part I


            Required Reading:


Budig, M. “The Fatherhood Bonus and the Motherhood Penalty: Parenthood and the Gender Gap in Pay.” Third Way.


            Masterson, C. and Hoobler, J. 2014. “Care and Career: A Family Identity-based Typology

            of Dual-Earner Career Couples.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 36: 75-93.


Thursday, April 23, 2015: Gender and the Rise of Dual Career Households, Part II


            Required Reading:


Jacobs, J. and Gornick, J. 2002. “Hours of Paid Work in Dual-Earner Couples: The United States in Cross-National Perspective.” Sociological Focus 35:2, 169-187.


Lewis, Jane. 2001. “The Decline of the Male Breadwinner Model: Implications for Work and Care.” Social Politics 8:2, 152-169.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015: The “Stalled” Revolution


            Required Reading:


            Hochschild, A. 1989. The Second Shift: New York: Penguin. Chapters 2, 4, and 5.


Thursday, April 30, 2015: Stay-at-home Fathers


            Required Reading:


Doucet, A. 2004. “‘It’s Almost Like I Have a Job, But I Don’t Get Paid.’: Fathers at Home Reconfiguring Work, Care, and Masculinity.” Fathering 2:3, 277-303.




Tuesday, May 5, 2015: Same-Sex Partners and the Division of Labor in the Home


            Required Reading:


Moore, M. 2008. “Gendered Power Relations among Women: A Study of Household Decision Making in Black, Lesbian Stepfamilies.” American Sociological Review 73:2, 335-356.


Thursday, May 7, 2015: Is Divorce a Social Problem?


            Required Reading:


            Coltrane, S. and Adams, M. 2003. “The Social Construction of the Divorce ‘Problem:’

            Morality, Child Victims, and the Politics of Gender.” Family Relations 52:4, 363-372.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015: Childcare and Domestic Labor


            Required Reading:


Epp, A. and Velagaleti, S. 2014. “Outsourcing Parenthood? How Families Manage Care Assemblages Using Paid Commercial Services.” Journal of Consumer Research 41:4, 911-935.


Thursday, May 14, 2015 – NO CLASS


            I will be out of town for a conference.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015: Families and the “Culture Wars”


            Stacey, J. 2011. Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to

            Western China. New York: New York University Press. Chapters 2 and 4.


Part IV: Contemporary Theories on the Meaning of Family


Thursday, May 21, 2015: “Queering” the Family


Lehr, V. 1999. Queer Family Values: Debunking the Myth of the Nuclear Family. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Chapters 1 and 2.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015: Values and The Postmodern Family


Stacey, J. 1996. In the Name of the Family: Rethinking Family Values in the Postmodern Age. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Chapters 1 and 2.





Thursday, May 28, 2015: Final Review


            We will review the course material in preparation for the final paper.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015 – READING PERIOD


Thursday, June 4, 2015 – READING PERIOD


Course Summary:

Date Details