Family Dynamics 7400.607-080

School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Instructor: David D. Witt, Ph.D. Fall 2010
Even Year Fall Semesters - Offered as a web course
Office Hours: By Appointment.
Note: The Provost's Office requires that all students taking this class must be registered by the 14th day of classes.
Be aware of clickable assignments scattered throughout the syllabus
Students  - At the end of the term please evaluate this class here

Email at
Related Internet Links Here References for the Course

PURPOSE OF THE COURSE: We will explore the concept of the family in social science using the tenets of several social and social psychological theories, including: structural-functional theory, the conflict perspectives, -social exchange theory , symbolic interaction theory, human development theories, and a form of general systems theory.  It is the aim of this course to gain some perspective on family life as it is understood by social science. Therefore, we will attempt to merge all these ideas into a single theoretical explanation of family life in our society. We will also explore several middle range theories, such as: theories of mate selection, theories of family violence, family stress and coping, and family change. Finally, we will discuss the family in terms of feminist, traditionalist, and critical vantage points. By the end of the semester, students who have applied adequate time to these issues will have a fundamental awareness of the tenets of these theories.

The term dynamics connotes several levels of interaction and change.

We will attempt to view the family in the context of its social environment, its historical epoch, its specific familial organization, and the variety of individuals that constitute its membership. We do this because the omission of any one aspect would result in an incomplete picture of family interaction and development as it really is.

How to Study for This Course: We aim for scholarship in this class.  You should become intimately familiar with the interior of Bierce Library, especially the Reference section, the internet, and the basement of the library where academic journals are kept in alphabetical order. Selected references are provided to you to serve as a starting place for you to begin your investigations. Outside reading is imperative if you are to gain your rightful portion of knowledge from this class. We do this because the best way to become scholars is to read the work of other scholars.

Student Responsibilities For This Class:  The key to this class is preparation. Ask questions of the instructor as these occur to you,  Turn in assignments on or before their due date. You may work together while preparing your essay assignments and as a tool to gain understanding. However, your final drafts must be in your own words and according to your personal understanding of the theories. Keep in mind that each student will be evaluated on the merits of his or her answers alone, which doesn't allow for rote responses.  Nobody has all the answers to theoretical questions in social science.  We are on a path to figure out how society and we ourselves work.

Grading: Your grade is based on the four essay questions (100 points each). Your essay examination is attached to the syllabus and found on the springboard page. Your final grade consists of 400 possible points divided by four.

Your textbook consists of the online notes detailed below and any outside reading you choose to do.  Notes are cited for your further investigation and reading, in addition to the references provided below
Chapters are listed below in the Course Outline as hyperlinks. Any other readings are to be found in Bierce Library. 


Week 1 - Introduction to the Course Preface, Introduction to Theories Chapter 1-2

Week 2 - Theory and Family Studies, Chapter 3

Week 3 - Structural-Functional Theories, Chapter 4

Week 4 -  Economic Conflict Theory, Chapter 5
                    Essay Question #1 due

Week 5 - Interpersonal Confict Theory, Chapter 5

Week 6 - Symbolic Interaction Theory, Chapter 6

Week 7 - Social Exchange Theory, Chapter 7

Week 8 - Theories of Human Development, Chapter 8
                    Essay Question #2 due

Week 9 - General Systems Theory, Chapter 9

Week 10 - Integration of Theories, Chapter 9

Week 11 - Essay Question #3 due

Week 12 - Middle Range Theories - I, Chapter 10

Week 13 - Middle Range Theories - II, Chapter 11

Week 14 - Political & Feminist Vantage Points, Chapter 12

Week 15 - Conclusion, Chapter 13

Finals Week - Essay Question #4 Due by 5:20 p.m. Thursday of Finals Week

Essay Examinations Questions for Family Dynamics
Instructor: D. D. Witt, Ph.D.
Your final draft of each essay should be typed and double spaced. Each question should be answered concisely and thoroughly.
 Read the questions carefully before beginning a thorough outline of each part (include your outline with your final draft).
Finally, write your answer in a critical, reflective form.

You should be able to answer each question satisfactorily in about 1000 words.If you get stuck ask questions of the instructor in class.
Due dates for each question are listed in the course outline.

1. Describe your own position on the usefulness of theory.
a. Briefly compare the purpose of theory in social science with its purpose in the helping professions.
b. Describe how theory-based research might serve applications, such as family therapy, social work, education, and/or service work?
c. Give examples from your own work or theory based research that you feel should be undertaken?

2. This question concerns the "Self", or individual personality.
a. Pick some aspect of your individual development, evolution, or change over the years (your changing expectations of the world and of others in it (your evolving values, your developing moral or ethical standards, your sophistication at getting  your needs met, and so on).
b. Pick two of the theories we have discussed so far and illustrate (with examples) how each theory describes, explains and predicts your chosen aspect of development.
c. Use specific tenets of each theory in all parts of your answer.

3. This question concerns the group "Family".
a. Pick some aspect of family life (i.e., changing family needs, daily interaction, first year of marriage, competing member needs, interpersonal attraction, and so on).
b. Pick three of the theories we have discussed (at least two of which are different from the ones chosen in #2 above) and  illustrate (with examples) some of the ways in which these theories describe, explain and predict your chosen aspect of family life.
c. Use specific tenets of each theory in all parts of your answer.

4. Explain in general why some kind of systems approach to social theory makes sense in terms of overall breadth and depth of a theory's usefulness to researchers.
a. Discuss and explain the development of middle range theories in social science as response to the conceptual failure of the grand theories (i.e., structural-functional theory, personality theories, economic theories).
b. Discuss Feminism as a theoretical issue and why the concepts developed in social science, including an interpretation of the development of social expectations and an individual's motivation for interaction from a Feminist point of view.
c. Describe and explain how a Feminist perspective changes the basic thrust or meaning of symbolic interaction theory, social exchange theory, or conflict theory (i.e. Discuss one of these theories in Feminist terms).

References for the Readings and Notes used in 7400.607 Family Dynamidcs:

Overviews of Theory and Science

Structural Functional Theory
Conflict Theories
Symbolic Interaction Theory
Social Exchange Theory
Human Development Theories
General  Systems  Theory

Mate Selection Theories

Theories of Family Change
Family Communication Theories
Domestic Violence
ABCX Theory of Family Stress

Feminist Vantage Points