Sociology 26N


"The Changing American Family"



Fall Quarter, 2006


Tuesdays and Thursdays


Educ 210



Michael J. Rosenfeld

Assistant Professor

Department of Sociology

McClatchy Hall (Building 120) room 124


Office Hours:

Tuesdays, 2:15-3:45P


The American family has changed a great deal in the past few decades. Extra-marital cohabitation and divorce have risen sharply in the past 30 years. Young adults are marrying later than ever before. Interracial marriage and same-sex cohabitation have increased. Same-sex marriage has emerged as one of the most divisive political issues in the U.S. What do all these changes mean? Are recent changes in the American family really as dramatic as they seem? We will examine family change from historical, social, demographic, and legal perspectives. Seminar participants will be expected to read and participate actively in class discussions. Students will write three short essays and make one class presentation; there are no exams.



1 Class Presentation                             20%

3 Short Papers                                     60%

Class Participation                                20%



This seminar will require careful reading, consistent class participation, 3 short papers, and one class presentation (which will be based on that week's reading assignment). There are no exams. Every reading assignment will be accompanied by 2 or more questions to guide your reading. These questions will be posted on my website ( These questions should guide your reading, your writing assignments, and your class presentation. Papers should be short- 2 or 3 pages- and should answer the questions I pose about the reading. The length restriction on papers is designed to force your essays to be concise. You may hand in essays in any 3 of the 9 weeks of class. You may hand in written assignments in more than 3 weeks, and in that case your grade will reflect the best 3 assignments you turn in. Because the written assignments are designed to stimulate class discussion, no late papers will be accepted and no incompletes for the course will be granted. Class presentations will be 10-15 minutes in length.



Books to be Purchased at the Stanford Bookstore:


Cherlin, Andrew J. 1992. Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage. Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Wilson, James Q. 2002. The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture has Weakened Families. New York: HarperCollins.


Bailey, Beth L. 1988. From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.


Harris, Judith Rich. 1998. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. New York: The Free Press.


Sullivan, Andrew, and Joseph Landau (Eds.). 1997. Same- Sex Marriage: Pro and Con. New York: Vintage.



We will read the books in this order. In addition, we will read the following articles, which I will provide to the class:


Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen, and Susan Taber. 1994. "Adolescence Terminable and Interminable: When Does Adolescence End?" Journal of Youth and Adolescence 23:517-537.


Shammas, Carole. 1995. "Anglo-American Household Government in Comparative Perspective." William and Mary Quarterly 52:104-144.


Rosenfeld, Michael J. 2005. "Young Adulthood as a Factor in Social Change in the US." Population and Development Review 32 (1):27-51


Rosenfeld, Michael J., and Byung-Soo Kim. 2005. "The Independence of Young Adults and the Rise of Interracial and Same-Sex Unions." American Sociological Review 70:541-562.




Reading Assignments:




Week 1:


Sep 26

Introduction to the class

Sep 28

Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Chapter 1 (Demographic Trends)



Week 2:


Oct 3

Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Chapters 2+3 (Explanations and Consequences)

Oct 5

Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Chapters 4+5 (Race and Poverty, The State of Our Unions)



Week 3:


Oct 10

Wilson, The Marriage Problem, Ch 1-3 (Two Nations, Why Do Families Exist, Sex and the Marriage Market)

Oct 12

Wilson, The Marriage Problem, Ch 4 (The Rise of Modern Marriage)



Week 4:


Oct 17

Wilson, The Marriage Problem, Ch 5-7 (African Americans and Slavery, Mother-Only Families, Divorce)

Oct 19

Wilson, The Marriage Problem, Ch 8-9 (Working Mothers, The Cultural Challenge)



Week 5:


Oct 24

Bailey, Front Porch, p. 1-56 (Introduction, Calling Cards and Money, The Economy of Dating)

Oct 26

Bailey, Front Porch, p. 57-96 (The Worth of a Date, Sex Control)



Week 6:


Oct 31

Bailey, Front Porch, p. 97-145 (The Etiquite of Masculinity, Scientific Truth, Epilogue)

Nov 2

Arnett and Taber, "Adolescence Terminable and Interminable"



Week 7:


Nov 7

Shammas, "Anglo-American Household Government"

Nov 9

Rosenfeld and Kim "The Indpendence of Young Adults"



Week 8:


Nov 14

Rosenfeld "Young Adulthood as a Factor in Social Change"

Nov 16

Sullivan, Same Sex Marriage Pro and Con, chapters 4 and 5





Nov 21

Thanksgiving Recess

Nov 23

Thanksgiving Recess



Week 9:


Nov 28

Harris, The Nurture Assumption, Preface, Introduction, Ch 1,2,3,9,10

Nov 30

Harris, The Nurture Assumption, Ch 13, 14, 15



Week 11:


Dec 5

Sullivan, Same Sex Marriage Pro and Con, chapters 3 and 8

Dec 7

Last class, no reading assignment