2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

American Families: Historical and Sociological Perspectives on Close Relationships

Fall 2011 quarter

Stephanie Coontz history, women's studies, family studies
Fields of Study
American studies, cultural studies, gender and women's studies, history and sociology
Preparatory for studies or careers in
sociology, history, family studies, research, social work, teaching, family law and counseling.
This program explores the historical evolution and current dynamics of family life, sexual mores and marriage. We begin by examining the variability of emotions and relationships that are sometimes viewed as "natural" or "traditional." We then briefly move through the transition from colonial and revolutionary times to the emergence of a new middle-class model of marriage and parenting in the 19 th century, which we will contrast to trends in working-class and racial-ethnic families.

In the second half of the program we discuss the origins of 20th-century marriage and parenting norms and explore the dramatic shifts that have occurred in family formation and relationship norms over the past 50 years. Students will also do individual projects that will culminate in presentations at the end of the quarter. These will cover topics such as the causes and consequences of divorce, the changing dynamics of cohabitation, singlehood and marriage, the emergence of new sexual norms, legal issues connected with changing family structures and practices, the rise of biracial and multiracial families, and debates over same-sex marriage and parenting.

Many of our topics will be controversial. We seek not simple answers but intelligent questions to inform our study. Students are expected to consider several different points of view, to fairly evaluate arguments with which they disagree, and to explore the possible contradictions or exceptions to their own positions. You should expect to back up your position with concrete examples and logical argumentation, and be prepared to be challenged to defend your positions. We are not simply sharing feelings or exchanging points of view but rigorously testing different interpretations and theories against each other.

Because this is a demanding and intensive program, student should not attempt to work more than 15 hours a week.

Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
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Offered During