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
Office Hours: By
Note: The Provost's Office requires
taking this class must be registered by the 14th day of
Be aware of clickable assignments
throughout the syllabus
- At the end of the term please evaluate this class here
PURPOSE OF THE COURSE: We will explore the concept of the
family in social science using the tenets of several social
social psychological theories, including:
structural-functional theory, the conflict
exchange theory , symbolic interaction theory, human
theories, and a form of general systems theory. It is the
this course to gain some perspective on family life as it is
by social science. Therefore, we will attempt to merge all these
into a single theoretical explanation of family life in
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
the family in terms of feminist, traditionalist, and critical
points. By the end of the semester, students who have applied
time to these issues will have a fundamental awareness of the
The term dynamics connotes several levels of interaction and
- At the macrolevel of social organization: historical
institutional interaction and the evolution of radical social
- At the middle ecological level: intrafamilial
development of social relationships.
- At the microlevel of development: individual growth
We will attempt to view the family in the context of its social
environment, its historical epoch, its specific familial
and the variety of individuals that constitute its membership. We
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
class. You should become intimately familiar with the
Bierce Library, especially the Reference section,
the internet, and the basement of the library where academic
are kept in alphabetical order. Selected references are provided
to serve as a starting place for you to begin your
investigations. Outside reading is imperative if you are to gain
rightful portion of knowledge from this class. We do this because
best way to become scholars is to read the
work of other scholars.
Student Responsibilities For This Class: The
to this class is preparation. Ask questions of the instructor as
occur to you, Turn in assignments on or before their due
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
according to your personal understanding of the theories. Keep in
that each student will be evaluated on the merits of his or her
alone, which doesn't allow for rote responses. Nobody has
answers to theoretical questions in social science. We are
path to figure out how society and we ourselves work.
Grading: Your grade is based on the four essay questions
points each). Your essay examination is attached to the syllabus
found on the springboard page. Your
final grade consists of 400 possible points divided by four.
Textbook: Your textbook consists of the online
detailed below and any outside reading you choose to do.
are cited for your further investigation
and reading, in addition to the references
Chapters are listed below in the Course Outline as
hyperlinks. Any other readings are to be found in
Week 1 - Introduction to the Course Preface, Introduction to
Week 2 - Theory and Family Studies, Chapter
Week 3 - Structural-Functional Theories, Chapter
Week 4 -
Economic Conflict Theory, Chapter 5
Essay Question #1 due
Week 5 - Interpersonal Confict Theory, Chapter
Week 6 - Symbolic Interaction Theory, Chapter
Week 7 - Social Exchange Theory, Chapter 7
Week 8 - Theories of
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
Week 13 - Middle Range Theories - II, Chapter
Week 14 - Political & Feminist Vantage Points, Chapter
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.
question should be answered concisely and thoroughly.
Read the questions carefully
beginning a thorough outline of each part (include your outline with
Finally, write your answer in a critical, reflective
You should be able to answer each question satisfactorily in about
words.If you get stuck ask
questions of the instructor
Due dates for each question are listed in the course
1. Describe your own position on the usefulness of theory.
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?
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
over the years (your changing expectations of the world and of
it (your evolving values, your developing moral or ethical
sophistication at getting your needs met, and so on).
b. Pick two of the theories we have discussed so far and illustrate
examples) how each theory describes, explains and predicts your
aspect of development.
c. Use specific tenets of each theory in all parts of your answer.
question concerns the group "Family".
a. Pick some aspect of family
life (i.e., changing family needs, daily
interaction, first year of marriage, competing
needs, interpersonal attraction, and so on).
b. Pick three of the theories we have discussed (at least two of
are different from the ones chosen in #2 above) and illustrate
examples) some of the ways in which these theories describe, explain
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
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,
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 (i.e. Discuss one of these theories in Feminist terms).
for the Readings and Notes
used in 7400.607 Family Dynamidcs:
Overviews of Theory and Science
Structural Functional Theory
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New York: Macmillan.
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AND PROPERTY. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.
- Coser, L., and B. Rosenberg (1957) SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY: A BOOK
New York: MacMillan.
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of Chicago Press.
- Landis, P. (1955). MAKING THE MOST OF MARRIAGE. New York:
- Merton, R.K. (1967) SOCIAL THEORY AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE. New
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SOCIOLOGY. New York: Harper and Row.
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York: Bantam Books.
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A THEORY INSTRUCTION APPROACH. Noston: Houghton-Mifflin.
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OF COMPARATIVE FAMILY STUDIES. 3: 5-16.130
Symbolic Interaction Theory
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Social Exchange Theory
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James, W. (1890) THE PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY. New York: Holt.
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OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, VOL. I. Reading, Mass:
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TIME, December 4