SOC 352 A: The Family

Listings for future quarters are tentative and subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, please consult the UW Time Schedule. For a listing of all courses potentially offered, see the Course Catalog.

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MW 10:50am - 1:00pm
PCAR 297
Angela Bruns

Syllabus Description:

We are all part of families, but not all families look alike. Many families have certain things in common; they relate people biologically and socially, and they organize care and residence. Yet, how we accomplish these things varies. This course will introduce you to the sociological study of topics that are very personal and important to many of us—topics like love, marriage, gender and parenthood. We will consider how experiences within families are part of larger patterns, for this relationship between families and society is key to understanding social life. An overarching theme of the course will be diversity and change; we will consider the many ways families have changed over the last several decades and the many forms that families take. We will also consider the centrality of families in a number of public policy debates.


Course Outline 


What is a family? How do we know what we know about families? How are families changing? 


Monday, June 22 

  • Introduction to the course 


Wednesday, June 24  

  • Andrew Cherlin. 2013. “How Do Family Sociologists Know What They Know?” pp. 17-22 in Public and Private Families 
  • Phillip Cowan. 2010, “When is a Relationship between Facts a Causal One?” pp. 15-19, in Barbara Risman (ed.), Families as They Really Are 
  • Steve Hendrix. 2012. “The Groupon Effect: Can Date-night Save Your Marriage?” in Washington Post 
  • Assignment: presentation topics due 


Monday, June 29 

  • Claude S. Fischer and Michael Hout. 2013. “The Family in Trouble: Since When? For Whom?” pp. 5-16, in Public and Private Families: A Reader 


Marriage and cohabitation 


Wednesday, July 1 

  • Stephanie Coontz. 2005. “What’s Love Got to Do with It? A Brief History of Marriage” in Psychotherapy Networker 
  • Andrew Cherlin. 2004. “The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage” in Journal of Marriage and Family 
  • Suzanne Venker. 2012. “The War on Men” in  


Monday, July 6 

  • Pamela J. Smock and Wendy Manning. 2010. “New Couples, New Families: The Cohabitation Revolution in the United States” in Families as They Really Are. 
  • Katrina Kimport. “The Persistent Power of Marriage,” pp. 104-111 in Queering Marriage 
  • Meg Jay. “The Downside of Cohabiting before Marriage” in New York Times 
  • Assignment: interview protocol due 


Wednesday, July 8  

  • Kathryn Edin. 2000. “What Do Low-Income Single Mothers Say about Marriage?” in Social Problems. 
  • Imani Perry. 2011. "Blacks, Whites and the Wedding Gap" in New York Times. 


Monday, July 13  

  • Judith Stacey. 2011. “Love, Sex, and Kinship in Gay El Lay(ch1) pp. 13-18, 24-26 (Three Polyamorous Brothers-in-Law) in Unhitched. 
  • Janet Bennion. 2011. “Introduction” pp. 1-9, “Further Light and Knowledge” pp. 56-58, 64-66, 72-77 in Polygamy in Prime Time. 
  • Assignment: Memo #1 


Families and incarceration 


Wednesday, July 15  

  • Megan Comfort. 2008. “We Share Everything We Can the Best Way We Can” (ch 3) pp. 65-98 and “ ‘Papa’s House:’ The Prison as Domestic Satellite” (ch 4) pp. 99-125 in Doing Time Together 
  • Justin Wolfers, David LeonHardt and Kevin Quealy. 2015. ”1.5 Million Missing Black Men” in New York Times. 


Monday, July 20  


Parents and children 


Wednesday, July 22  

  • Timothy Biblarz and Judith Stacey. 2010. “How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?” in Journal of Marriage and Family 
  • Stephanie Coontz. 1997.  “Putting Divorce in Perspective,” pp. 97108 in The Way We Really Are 
  • Assignment: Memo #2 


Monday, July 27   

  • Annette Lareau. 2002. “Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in Black Families and White Families” in American Sociological Review 


Families and work 


Wednesday, July 29   

  • Arlie Russell Hochschild and Anne Machung. 2003. “A Speed-up in the family” (ch 1) pp. 1-10 in The Second Shift (EVERYONE) 
  • Arlie Russell Hochschild and Anne Machung. 2003. Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 9 in The Second Shift (ONE CHAPTER PER PERSON) 


Wednesday, August 3 

  • Class will choose a documentary to watch 
  • Assignment: paper drafts due 


Monday, August 5 

  • Scott Coltrane. 1989. "Household Labor and the Routine Production of Gender" in Social Problems  
  • Christina Hoff Sommers. 2013. “Guys Who Do Housework Get Less Sex” in Slate 


Monday, August 10  

  • Mary Blair-Loy. 2001. “Cultural Constructions of Family Schemas: The Case of Women Finance Executives” in Gender & Society 


Wednesday, August 12  


Monday, August 17 

  • Family interview presentations and celebration! 
  • Assignment: final paper due 


Wednesday, August 19 

Catalog Description: 
The family as a social institution. Historical changes and societal variation in family patterns. Changes over the life cycle. Alternative family forms.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
April 29, 2016 - 1:28pm