Family Crisis

Dept. of Child and Family Development - Fall 2016
Instructor: David D. Witt, PhD.
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CONTACTING THE INSTRUCTOR: The most reliable method for contacting the instructor is via email ( and through the Springboard Course Management System. Students are required by the university to use their UANet ( email accounts when communicating electronically for official communications. 

COURSE CONTENT is accessed using this syllabus as the course outline (see below) where you will find links to online class notes, assignments, exams and so on. Students may interact with each other using the class list email system as long as BOTH sides agree to such interaction, however this is not required for the class. Students are encouraged to communicate with the instructor via email at anytime throughout the semester, especially if you hit a snag or are having difficulty understanding the material. DO NOT WAIT before emailing. It is easy to fall hopelessly behind. 

There is no text for this senior level class - I have supplied you with sufficient online material plus additional references to get you moving.  Please understand that I developed the class notes, which comprises many pages of text, without the help of a student assistant, secretary or any other assistance.  That means there may be typographical errors  that persist even after having taught the class many times. I have spell checked and rechecked but if you find mistakes in the text of the readings, please let me know with an email.

In terms of your performance in the class, it is up to you, the student, to read the material critically and ask questions for clarification. You are encouraged to use your experience and growing academic knowledge when addressing essay questions and assignments.

PURPOSE OF THE COURSE: This course is designed for the professional who will work with families, and who will have the opportunity to assist families in effectively coping with stress and crisis, through educational strategies. We will be studying family stress and crisis from theoretical and practical points of view, including major theory groups, research and application of findings, and discussion of the effects on families of the changing political climate.  Students receiving an "A" in the course should be able to:

  1. Identify theoretical models of family development and family crisis.
  2. Identify sources of stress and resources for coping in times of crisis.
  3. Describe stages of the family life cycle and crises associated with those stages.
  4. Recognize unique elements of crises experienced by culturally diverse families.
  5. Recognize the importance of maintaining a knowledge base of changes in political and economic policy, legislation, and climate.

GROUND RULES: Understanding the material in this course will take great effort on your part.  Some of  you are specializing in one type of "crisis" or another.   In this class, I want each student to think of the commonalities of all crises, rather than focusing on spousal abuse, drug addiction, or any other narrow type of crisis.  Your regular attention to course material and readings, and your performance on assignments and exams are critical to your success as a student in an upper level course or as a graduate student.

Pay attention to the calendar and be especially prompt in submitting your written work on time through the Assignments Folder.  Submitting your work in a timely fashion for evaluation by the instructor of the class is the way student participation is assessed.  And no assignment will be accepted after one week past its due date, at which time the
Assignments Folder  will be closed for that assignment. 

GRADES: Your final grade will be based on the ratio of the points you earn out of a possible 500 points as follows:

Examination Procedures: Each of your exams will consist of an array of essay questions, ranging in  varying point value. These questions are derived from the online course material, and are intended to provide you with an opportunity to display your understanding of the material and illustrate your ability to apply the material to your own intended profession.  The pre-midterm, midterm and final examination questions are ready for your viewing (see "GRADES"above).


Some pointers for helping to insure the best grade you can earn: Students in this class have the ability to earn the grade they want by reading the examination instructions and responding accordingly. For example, according to the Pre-midterm examination instructions:

 “Each question is worth 5 points, except for #7 which is a 10 pointer.  In terms of length, it is important that you are able, through your answer, to demonstrate your complete understanding of the concept in the question. In other words, a few sentences just won't do the trick. Half a page for each answer is likely a grade of C. Use complete sentences, and cite the online readings appropriately.”

  • If I wanted an A in this class, I would write much more than the minimum for a C grade.
  • I would integrate the material into a cogent, thought provoking essay - one that I would be proud to have anyone read,  free of spelling errors and  grammatical problems 
    I would also find additional sources to cite outside the basic readings provided by the instructor. 
    I have provided some references for those class members interested in brushing up on the original source. 
  • i would begin working on the first question on the pre-midterm exam on the first day of class and I would work up answers after reading (and re-reading) each reading assignment. 
  • I would NOT wait until the weekend the exam is due to try to push through the material.  You will fail if you do that - further, you will not learn anything.

Term Paper Instructions (Graduate Students Only): I expect your work to be a polished piece that reviews a single aspect of family crisis, or a theoretical point of view as it relates to families in crisis. It should be complete with the following “parts”:


  • Outline
  • Introduction (write this section last)
  • Main Body (containing comparisons and contrasts, or showing growth in the research area)
                     This is where you cite your sources in the text.
  • Conclusion (in which you evaluate your resources as a whole)
  • References Section.

Graduate students should speak via email to me individually about their projects. Generally graduate students have a 20 page minimum with 15 references. Papers should be carefully written to make a point, be double spaced, typewritten. The grading criteria for term papers are attached to the back of the syllabus.

Course Outline

Week 1 - Aug 29
Introduction to the Course and your Pre-midterm Questions

Week 2 - Sept 5
The Usefulness of Guiding Theoretical Assumptions

Week 3 - Sept 12 The Purpose of Theory in the Study of Family Crises

Week 4 - Sept 19 Five Major Theories- Structural Functional Theory and Family Crisis

PreMidterm Examination due in the Assignments Folder
Sunday the 25th by 11:55pm

Week 5 - Sept 26 MIdterm Exam Questions

Five Major Theories- Conflict Theories, Symbolic Interaction & Family Crisis

Week 6 - Oct. 3
Five Major Theories - Social Exchange Theory and Developmental Theories

Week 7 - Oct 10 Integration of the Five Major Theories &

      Family Crises Defined- Hill's ABC->X Theory

Midterm Examination due in the Assignments Folder
by Sunday, Oct. 16 by 11:55pm

Week 8 -Oct 17  Final Exam Questions

       Reminder regarding term papers for graduate students.
       Email me with your topics by Oct. 17th.

Week 9 - Oct 24 The Relationship Between the Economy & Family Crises

Movie Watch/Review: Surviving the New Economy 
or The Retirement Gamble

Submit your Movie Review to the Assignments Folder
by Sunday Oct. 30th at 11:55pm

Week 10 - Oct. 31 The Relationship Between Religion & Family Crises

Watch/Review: Faith & Doubt at Ground Zero or God in America

Submit your Movie Review to the Assignments Folder
by Sunday Nov. 6th at 11:55 pm

Week 11 - Nov 07 The Relationship Between Education & Family Crises

Movie Watch/Review: Frontline Dropout Nation or Educating Sgt. Pantzke

Submit your Movie Review to the Assignments Folder
by Sunday Nov 13th

Week 12 - Nov. 14
The Relationship Between Government & Family Crises

Movie Watch/Review: Poor KIds or The Wounded Platoon

Submit your Movie Review to the Assignments Folder
by Sunday Nov 20th at 11:55pm

Week 13 - Nov 21 The Relationship Between Technology & Family Crises

Movie Watch/Review: Digital Nation or Flying Cheap

Submit your Movie Review to the Assignments Folder
by Sunday Nov 27th
at 11:55pm

Week 14 - Nov 28 The Future of Families in the 21st Century

Week 15 - Dec 05 Prepare your final examinations (and term papers for graduate students).

Graduate Student Term Papers Due Dec.11 by 11:15pm

Finals Week Dec 14 Final Examination due in the Assignments Folder
by Wednesday Dec. 14 at 11:55pm


Course Evaluations: Please take time to fill out the online evaluation for this course at