Contemporary Sociological Research on the Family
Fall semester 2009
C301 Wells Hall
Instructor: Dr. Zhenmei Zhang
Office: 434C Berkey Hall
Office Hours: Tuesday 4:00-5:00pm and by appointment
This graduate seminar will introduce students to some of the key debates and topics in the sociology of family, improving their ability to critically analyze work in this field and inspiring students’ own family-related research. The course materials draw on a variety of theoretical, historical, and methodological perspectives to examine topics such as union formation and dissolution, relationship quality, childbearing, parenthood, work and family issues, and intergenerational transfers.
- Cherlin, Andrew. 2009. The marriage-go-round: The state of marriage and the family in America today. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
- Edin, Kathryn and Maria Kefalas. 2005. Promises I can keep: why poor women put motherhood before marriage. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Bianchi, Suzanne M., John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie. 2006. Changing rhythms of American family life. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
- Rosenfeld, M. J. 2007. The age of independence: interracial unions, same-sex unions, and the changing American family. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.
- Selected articles available on electronic journal sites (http://www.jstor.org/).
REQUIREMENTS: This course is organized as a seminar. Although I will provide
overviews and/or supplemental material in lecture, much instruction takes place in the
context of student preparations, guided discussion and exchanges focused on the readings.
Students are expected to attend each class and to have read all of the assigned
material thoroughly and critically before the class meeting. Reading critically means
not only being able to describe the content of an assigned piece, but also evaluating the logic of its arguments, the adequacy of its methods, its implications, and its relation toother course material. Students are strongly encouraged to contribute to the discussion
both their insights and /or questions from the readings.
There are four major tasks to be accomplished:
- Preparation of the reading for class presentation and discussion (15%). During weekly meetings, each student will be assigned major responsibility for one or two readings that we will discuss as a class. Every discussion leader should prepare a 15 minutes presentation for the assigned readings, accomplishing two things in their presentation: 1) an overview of the “big questions” and related theories in the reading; 2) key issues related to data, measurement, and methods. For each segment, 15 minutes will be devoted to presentation and 5 minutes to Q&A/discussion. I will be available throughout the week to meet or discuss via email reading strategies and preparing for these presentations. Grades will be based on class participation (handout, presentation, and discussion). After the presentation, the whole class will discuss additional questions of the readings. During the discussion or near the end of it I will present supplementary material to add breadth and depth to coverage of the topic.
- 2 short essays (15%): The students need to submit 3 short essays of their critique of the paper (3-5 pages) during the whole semester. These essays will be graded.
- Midterm exam (20%): The exam is a take-home exam. This midterm will consist of a set of 3-4 essay questions, based on the course reading and lecture materials. You will select two questions and write your responses that show your ability to understand and use the material.
- Research proposal and presentation (50%): Research proposal should follow the general National Institutes of Health guidelines in which the research problem is specified, the literature review identifies key knowledge gaps, hypotheses are stated, the data are described, and the analyses are outlined (15-20 double space pages). We will work through the paper process together using the following deadlines:
- Topic & data source (if relevant) due Oct 13
- Introduction and literature review due Nov 10
- Presentation of draft paper/proposal due Dec 8
- Final version of full paper/proposal due Dec 15
Students will give 3 presentations based on their papers during the semester. On Oct 20 students will give short presentations of their research topic and preliminary thoughts on their plans, and feedback will be provided by the rest of the class. On Nov 10 students will give short presentations on their work-in-progress and we will discuss research problems and suggestions for their resolutions. During the last week of class, students will present their papers to the class. Presentations should follow the format one would expect at a professional meeting (e.g., ASA or PAA meetings). Students can work alone on their research papers or work in a group of 2 students who share a research interest. For those who choose to work in groups, contributions of each author must be specified in a separate memo to the instructor.
The combined emphasis on reading and critiquing scholarly works, leading discussions, taking part in issue oriented discussion, taking an essay exam, writing a research proposal, and making presentations to the class is designed to maximize the chances that you will become familiar with the concepts and information relevant to family sociology and will be able to use them in other contexts such as preparing for your Ph.D. prelim exams, writing a thesis or dissertation, presenting papers at conferences, and performing other professional activities. I do not give Incomplete for this course. Please finish all assignments by the end of the semester.
Sept 8: Introduction & Overview of Course
NO READING REQUIRED
Sept 15: The Current State of Marriage and Family in US
· Cherlin, Andrew. 2009. The marriage-go-round: The state of marriage and the
family in America today.
Sept 22: Theoretical Perspectives, Methods and Data in Family Sociology
· Fox, Greer Litton and Velma McBride Murry. 2000. “Gender and Families:
Feminist Perspectives and Family Research.” Journal of Marriage and the Family
· Booth, Karen Carver, and Douglas A Granger. 2000. “Biosocial Perspectives on
the Family.” Journal of Marriage and Family 62: 1018–1034.
· Hofferth, Sandra L. 2005. “Secondary Data Analysis in Family Research.”
Journal of Marriage and Family 67: 891-907.
· Dodson, Lisa and Leah Lschmalzbauer. 2005. “Poor Mothers and Habits of
Hiding: Participatory Methods in Poverty Research.” Journal of Marriage and
Family 67: 949–959.
Sept 29: Young Adulthood and Alternative Unions
· Rosenfeld, M. J. 2007. The age of independence: interracial unions, same-sex
unions, and the changing American family.
Oct 6: Cohabitation
· Manning, Wendy and Pamela J. Smock. 2005. “Measuring and Modeling
Cohabitation: New Perspectives from Qualitative Data.” Journal of Marriage and
the Family 67:989-1002.
· Brown, Susan L. and Alan Booth. 1996. “Cohabitation versus Marriage: A
Comparison of Relationship Quality.” Journal of Marriage and Family 58:668-
· Hewitt, Belinda and David De Vaus. 2009. “Change in the Association between
Premarital Cohabitation and Separation, Australia 1945-2000.” Journal of
Marriage and Family 71: 353-361.
· King, V. and M.E. Scott (2005). “A Comparison of Cohabiting Relationships
Among Older and Younger Adults.” Journal of Marriage and Family 67(2):271-
Oct 13: Marriage and Marital Quality
· Sweeney, Megan M. 2002. “Two Decades of Family Change: The Shifting
Economic Foundations of Marriage.” American Sociological Review 67:132-147.
· Waite, Linda J. 1995. “Does Marriage Matter?” Demography 32:483-507.
· Rogers, Stacy J. and Paul A. Amato. 2000. “Have Changes in Gender Relations
Affected Marital Quality?” Social Forces 79:731-753.
· Student Presentation of Research Topics
Oct 20: Nonmarital Childbearing
· Edin, Kathryn and Maria Kefalas. 2005. Promises I can keep: why poor women
put motherhood before marriage. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Oct 27: Parenthood
· Lareau, Annette. 2002. “Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in
Black Families and White Families.” American Sociological Review 67:747-776.
· King, Valarie, Kathleen Mullan Harris, and Holly E. Heard. 2004. “Racial and
Ethnic Diversity in Nonresident Father Involvement.” Journal of Marriage and
· Berger, Lawrence M., Marcia J. Carlson, Sharon H. Bzostek and Cynthia Osborne.
2008. “Parenting Practices of Resident Fathers: The Role of Marital and
Biological Ties.” Journal of Marriage and Family 70(3):625-639.
· Bzostek, Sharon H. 2008. “Social Fathers and Child Well-Being.” Journal of
Marriage and Family 70(4):950-961.
Nov 3: Divorce and Remarriage
· Ruggles, Steven. 1997. “The Rise of Divorce and Separation in the United States,
1880-1990.” Demography 34(4):455-466.
· Oppenheimer, Valerie Kincade. 1997. “Comment on ‘The Rise of Divorce and
Separation in the United States, 1880-1990.’” Demography 34(4):467-472.
· Amato, Paul R. and Juliana M. Soboleswski. 2001. “The Effects of Divorce and
Marital Discord on Adult Children’s Psychological Well-Being.” American
Sociological Review 66(6):900-921.
· Booth, Alan and John N. Edwards. 1992. “Starting Over: Why Remarriages are
More Unstable.” Journal of Family Issues 13:179-194.
· MacDonald, William L. and Alfred DeMaris. 1995. “Remarriage, Stepchildren,
and Marital Conflict: Challenges to the Incomplete Institutionalization
Hypothesis.” Journal of Marriage and Family 57:387-401.
Nov 10 Work and Family Issues
· Bianchi, Suzanne M., John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie. 2006. Changing
rhythms of American family life. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
· Student Presentation of Research in Progress
Nov 17 NO CLASS–Work week for papers and proposals
Kinship Relations & Exchanges
· Hogan, D.P., D.J. Eggebeen, and C.C. Clogg. 1993. “The Structure of
Intergenerational Exchanges in American Families.” American Journal of
· Bengtson, Vern. 2001. “Beyond the Nuclear Family: The Increasing Importance
of Multigenerational Bonds.” Journal of Marriage and Family 63:1-16.
· Pezzin, Liliana E. and Barbara S. Schone. 1999. “Parental Marital Disruption and
Intergenerational Transfers: An Analysis of Lone Elderly Parents and Their
Children.” Demography 36: 287-297.
· Sarkisian, Natalia and Naomi Gerstel. 2004. “Kin Support among Blacks and
Whites: Race and Family Organization.” American Sociological Review 69: 812-
Dec 1 Immigrant Families
· Hao, Lingxin and Melissa Bonstead-Bruns. 1998. “Parent-Child Difference in
Educational Expectations and Academic Achievement of Immigrant and Native
Students.” Sociology of Education 71:175-198.
· Dreby, Joanna. 2007. “Children and Power in Mexican Transnational Families.”
Journal of Marriage and Family 69(4): 1050-1065.
· Tseng, Vivian and Andrew Fuligni. 2000. “Parent-Adolescent Language Use And
Relationships Among Immigrant Families With East Asian, Filipino, And Latin
American Backgrounds” Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (2): 465-477.
· Qin, D. B. 2009. Gendered processes of adaptation: Understanding parent-child
relations in Chinese immigrant families. Sex Roles, 60, 467-481.
Dec 8 Student Presentations of Final Papers/Proposals