7400.602 Family in Lifespan Perspective
Instructor: David D. Witt, Ph.D.
Website: http://www3.uakron.edu/witt/iiflsp/flsp.html
Phone: 972-6044 215f SHS

PURPOSE OF THE COURSE: It is the aim of this course to gain an overall perspective on the changing nature of American family relationships over the lifespan. Through readings, presentations and writing assignments, students will gain an overview of the theories and research dealing with individual and family development - from courtship and the beginning of intimate relationships through to late life and widowhood.

You will be working independently, so the quality of your written work is critical.
We will 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 will attempt to construct, as completely as possible, a developmental model of family life in the United States today.

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Students will gain an overall perspective on the changing nature of American family relationships over the lifespan. Think of this class as a graduate level Courtship Marriage and the Family course. Students will gain an overview of the theories and research dealing with individual and family development - from courtship and the beginning of intimate relationships through to late life and widowhood.

Several levels of interaction and change will be considered throughout the course from a theoretical perspective:

  • the macrolevel of organization (i.e., structural components of a functional family, historical change, institutional interaction and evolution, radical social change, political climate)
  • the middle ecological level (i.e., use of symbolic interaction, intrafamilial interaction, social development)
  • the microlevel of development (i.e., individual growth and human development development).
Students will attempt to construct, as completely as possible, a developmental model of family life over the lifespan in the United States today.

GRADING & ASSIGNMENTS:  You are responsible for reading academic journal articles on the weeks' topics. You are free to choose articles from journals specific to your discipline, provided the articles are written on the week's topic. Each article will be summarized (a sample sheet is provided) and sent to the professor for grading - The professor may have question about your article each week, so be prepared to answer in return email.
  • There will be ten (10) article assignments (10 points each - see form attached below) throughout the semester for a total of 100 points. These should be articles useful enough for you to retain (for your comprehensive examinations, for example).
  • The Midterm and Final examinations are worth 100 points each and are attached to the bottom of this page and on the Springboard Dropbox.
  • Assignments are due on specific weeks - and we will meet every three weeks on Tuesday Mornings for updates in the meeting room near the GA offices.
Date - - - Website Section

Week 1 -Introduction

Week 2  -Diversity of Family Life
                (be sure to hit the "Back" Button to return to the syllabus from here!)

Week 3 - Theory and Research Overview - Gender Roles
           Article #1   on Gender Roles

Week 4 - Getting to Know Someone Else - Getting Involved - Falling in Love - Selecting a Partner

    Article #2: Falling in Love, Mate Selection, or Interpersonal Attraction Research or Theory! After my lecture, we will share your findings at the library.
Week 5 - Being Single - Getting Married -The Marriage Prior to Children.
    Article #3: Marital Adjustment, the evolution of relationships after marriage, but prior to pregnancy and childrearing.
Week 6 - Human Sexuality within Marriage.

    Article #4: human sexuality within marriage or long term relationships.
Week 7 - Becoming a Parent - Childrearing: Infancy & Early Childhood
    Article: #4 Adjusting to Parenting Infancy
Week 8 - Childrearing through Adolescence.
        Article #5 Parenting Adolescents

Week 9 - Family Communication
                Article #6 Communication in marriage

Week 10 - Work and Home/Family Finances - Family Life Management
                 Article #7 Managing income and resources for a family

Week 11 - Family Lifescycle Relationships
                 Article #8 Marriage relationships in later life

Week 12 - Separation & Divorce - Remarriage & Stepfamilies
                 Article #9 Separation, Divorce or Remarriage

Week 13 - Marriage as a Struggle - Family Crises
                 Article #10 Conflict and struggle in marriage relationships

Weeks 14 Week 15 - Prepare final exams

Finals Week - Final Examination due at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday of finals week

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

Review Sheet for Family in Lifespan Perspective

Expand the categories below to fit your critique. Be sure to comment on each category and try to fit your review on one (two maximum) pages. Make copies of the review only for everyone in the class and one for the instructor.


Reference Information:



Purpose of the Study:



Sampling Comments:






Findings/Results/Main Points:








Family in Lifespan Perspective 7400 602.080
Midterm Examination Questions
Inst: D.D. Witt

Your final draft of your midterm should be typed and double spaced. Each question should be answered concisely and thoroughly, using the lecture notes, and your library research.   Write your answer in a critical, reflective form, detailing what is known about the question, and what remains to be discovered. You should be able to answer each question satisfactorily in about 2 pages.  These questions should help you with Part I and Part II of your comprehensive exam.

1. How are families defined in American culture?  What's are the differences between the ways individuals define their family relationships and the way researchers define family relationships? Most importantly, how does the definition of the family also define the way theories use the concept?

2. Describe the important changes that have occurred in American family life since 1900.  How could changes in the economy bring about changes in the ways men and women, parents and children, boys and girls interact and relate to each other.  Now take two of your family theories and apply the to the explanation of these changes in behavior.

3. What changes occur in new marriages during the first year together?  To what extent is there more variety of behavior and deviance from the normal today, as compared to more traditional roles in marriage from earlier decades? Hint - think about the idea of role assignments in the old days versus the many roles men and women are asked to play out in their families today.

4. Why do American parents so adamantly reserve the right to spank their children? How might your favorite family theories explain this perceived need? Devise a realistic plan for new parents so that they might properly socialize their children without ever using corporal punishment. Include nonthreatening and inductive methods here.

6. From the point of view of your theories, how does parenthood change the lives of women versus men?  Are traditional gender roles continuing? What is taking their place? How do "environmental differences" (i.e., social class) effect the quality of childhood? What are some of the steps parents can take to guarantee positive outcomes from their children's? How does theory explain these gaps (hint: if it doesn't matter to the preservation of society then it doesn't matter period).

Family in Lifespan Perspective 7400 602.080
Final Examination Questions
Inst: D.D. Witt

Your final draft of your final should be typed and double spaced. Each question should be answered concisely and thoroughly. Write your answer in a critical, reflective form, detailing what is known about the question, and what remains to be discovered. You should be able to answer each question satisfactorily in about 2-3 pages. Due dates are listed in the course outline. Your final should be helpful in writing Part III and Part IV of your Comprehensive Exam.

1. Briefly describe research into communication in a close relationship. What are some common problems people find when attempting to communicate with their lovers. Are there gender differences that you can document between the communication behavior and expectations?  Symbolic Interaction and Social Exchange theories should be helpful in generating research here.

2. Chart a probable course for most families' finances over the life course. Include here a budget of normal expenses.  Why do you suppose so many people have money troubles as they get older? What are some recommendations with an eye on the future that you might give to newlyweds. Try to answer this question from a social exchange or structural functional theoretical point of view.

3. Thinking about Cuber and Haroff's Five Types of Marriage, what would you say is the "normal" type of family relationship that couple's have at Mid-life. Explain the "sag" in marital satisfaction that seems to occur until children are out of their teens.  What are some strategies for combating this depression? Think of some innovative ways in which your favorite family theories could generate new research here.

4. Chart the divorce rate in the U.S. since about 1900. What are some of the explanations for the steady, long-term increase, and why has it seemed to have leveled off in the mid-1980s? Prioritize a list of the variables that change due to the "impact of divorce" on men, women, and children under 12 years of age (include a theoretical explanation for each item on your list). 

5. Aside from divorce, there are a great many other stressors and crises that may occur in families over the lifespan. Use a two by two table to chart the sources of stress and crisis both inside and outside the family over the lifespan. Include solutions and preventive measures that might be taken for each item in your chart. Explain how your theories can be helpful in explaining, through research projects, future changes in the family that you forsee.

6. Second marriages, particularly those where one or both partners have been divorced, appear to be more unstable than first marriages. What are some of the most important explanations for this phenomenon? What advice would you give, in general, to someone contemplating marriage for the second time.

Additional References

Arditti, Joyce A., (1992). Differences Between Fathers with Joint Custody and Noncustodial Fathers, Am. J. Orthopsychiatry. 62: 2, 186-195.

Barnett, Rosalind C; Kibria, Nazli; et al., (1991). Adult Daughter- Parent Relationships and Their Associations with Daughters' Subjective Well-Being and Psychological Distress. JMF. 53:1, 29-42.

Belsky, Jay; Youngblade, Lise; et al., (1991). Patterns of Marital Change and Parent-Child Interaction. JMF. 53:2, 487-498.

Brody, Gene H; Stoneman, Zolinda; McCoy, J Kelly, (1992). Associations of Maternal and Paternal Direct and Differential Behavior with Sibling Relationships: Contemporaneous and Longitudinal Analyses. Child Development 63: 1, 82-92.

Braver, Sanford H; Wolchik, Sharlene A; et al., (1991). Frequency of Visitation by Divorced Fathers. Am. J. of Orthopsychiatry. 61:3, 448-454.

Crnic, Keith A; Booth, Cathryn L. (1991). Mothers' and Fathers' Perceptions of Daily Hassles of Parenting Across Early Childhood. JMF 53:4, 1042-1050.

De Luccie, M. F, Davis, A. J., (1991). Father-Child Relationships from the Preschool Years Through Mid-Adolescence. J. of Genetic Psychology, 152:2, 225-238.

Dudley, James R., (1991). Increasing Our Understanding of Divorced Fathers Who Have Infrequent Contact with Their Children. Family Relations. 40:3, 279-285.

Fagot, Beverly I; Hagan, Richard, (1991). Observations of Parent Reactions to Sex-Stereotyped Behaviors: Age and Sex Effects. Child Development. 62:3, 617-628.

Fox, Nathan A; Kimmerly, Nancy L; Schafer, William D., (1991). Attachment to Mother/Attachment to Father: A Meta-Analysis. Child Development, 62:1, 210-225.

Greenberger, Ellen; O Neil, Robin, (1992). Maternal Employment and Perceptions of Young Children: Bronfenbrenner et al. Revisited. Child Development, 63: 2, 431-448.

Hawkins, Alan J; Eggebeen, David J. (1992). Are Fathers Fungible? Patterns of Coresident Adult Men in Maritally Disrupted Families and Young Children's Well-Being. JMF. 53: 4, 958-972.

Harris, Kathleen Mullan; Morgan, S Philip, (1991). Fathers, Sons, and Daughters: Differential Paternal Involvement in Parenting. JMF. 53:3, 531-544.

Hill, Martha S. (1992). The Role of Economic Resources and Remarriage in Financial Assistance for Children of Divorce. J. of Family Issues, 13:2, 158-178

Hutter, J. (1982). THE CHANGING FAMILY. New York: Jon Wiley.

Ishii-Kuntz, Masako, (1992). Are Japanese Families "Fatherless"?, Sociology & Social Research. 76: 3, 105-110.

Julian, Teresa W; McKenry, Patrick C; McKelvey, Mary W., (1991). Mediators of Relationship Stress Between Middle-Aged Fathers and Their Adolescent Children. J. of Genetic Psychology. 152:3, 381-386.

Kafka, Randy R; London, Perry, (1991). Communication in Relationships and Adolescent Substance Use: The Influence of Parents and Friends. Adolescence. 26:103, 587-598.

Lengua, Liliana J; Roosa, Mark W; et al., (1992). Using Focus Groups to Guide the Development of a Parenting Program for Difficult-to-Reach, High-Risk Families, Family Relations. 41: 2, 163-168.

Marsiglio, William, (1991). Paternal Engagement Activities with Minor Children. JMF, 53:4, 973-986.

McDevitt, Teresa M; Lennon, Randy; Kopriva, Rebecca J., (1991). Adolescents' Perceptions of Mothers' and Fathers' Prosocial Actions and Empathic Responses. Youth & Society. 22: 3, 387-409.

Phares, Vicky (1992). Where's Poppa? The Relative Lack of Attention to the Role of Fathers in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology. American Psychologist 47: 5, 656-664.

Richards, Maryse H; Gitelson, Idy B; et al., Adolescent Personality in Girls and Boys: The Role of Mothers and Fathers. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 15:1, 65-81.

Salt, Robert E., (1991). Affectionate Touch Between Fathers and Preadolescent Sons. JMF. 53:3, 545-554.

Seltzer, Judith A., (1991). Relationships between Fathers and Children Who Live Apart: The Father's Role after Separation. JMF. 53:1, 79-101.

Seltzer, Judith A., (1991). Legal Custody Arrangements and Children's Economic Welfare. Am. J. of Sociology. 96:4, 895-929.

Shepard, Melanie (1992). Child-Visiting and Domestic Abuse. Child Welfare, 71:4, 357-367.

Teachman, Jay D., (1991). Contributions to Children by Divorced Fathers. Social Problems. 38:3, 358-371.

Veum, Jonathan R. (1992). Interrelation of Child Support, Visitation, and Hours of Work. Monthly Labor Review, 115:6, 40-47.

Volling, Brenda L; Belsky, Jay (1992). The Contribution of Mother-Child and Father-Child Relationships to the Quality of Sibling Interaction: A Longitudinal Study. Child Development, 63:5, 1209-1222.

Wagner, Barry M; Phillips, Deborah A. (1992). Beyond Beliefs: Parent and Child Behaviors and Children's Perceived Academic Competence. Child Development, 63:6, 1380-1391.

Wojtkiewicz, Roger A., (1992). Diversity in Experiences of Parental Structure During Childhood and Adolescence. Demography. 29: 1, 59-68.