Soc 155/255   

The Changing American Family



Reading Questions; Check back regularly for updates

Rev 3/25/2021




Week 1:


March 29

Introduction to the class

March 31

Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Chapters 1-3 (Demographic Trends, Explanations, and Consequences)


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

    * What is a cohort?

    * What is the Baby Boom and when did it occur?

    * Can you see evidence of the Baby Boom in Figure 1-1?

    * What is the trend in extra marital cohabitation, and what is the effect of education on cohabitation? (see Figure 1-2)

    * What is the effect of longer life expectancy on the percentage of marriages that eventually end in divorce?


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

    * What is the difference between 'period' and 'cohort' explanations for the baby boom? What evidence is available for each explanation?

    * What is the trend in married women's labor force participation, how might this affect the divorce rate?

    * What are the effects of divorce and what are some limitations of the research on the effects of divorce?




Week 2:


Apr 5

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


    * What are the differences between white and black family patterns in the late 20th century, and what explains these differences?

     * What is the story of the infamous 'Harvard-Yale' study of female marriage probabilities?

Apr 7

Waite and Gallagher, Ch1-7


* What are Waite and Gallagher’s 5 myths about marriage?

* What evidence do they provide about gender equality or inequality within marriage?

* Why do they think married men are healthier and live longer than single or divorced men? What other explanations are possible for the apparent health benefits of marriage?




Week 3:


Apr 12

Waite and Gallagher, Ch 8-14

* What is the nature of the public and societal stake in marriage?

* What policies do Waite and Gallagher propose to strengthen marriage?

* What is Waite and Gallagher’s position on same-sex marriage?


On DePaulo, Ch1-2:

* What is DePaulo’s critique of Waite and Gallagher?


Apr 14

Moynihan “The Negro Problem”

* What does Moynihan see as the main differences between black and white family structure?

* What is the effect of matrifocal family structure on black society?

* Where does Moynihan think the black matrifocal family comes from?

* What kinds of public policy priorities does Moynihan advocate?




Week 4:


Apr 19

Reading from the Feminine Mystique, Chapters 1 and 2, and the first 6 pages of Ch 3 (p 57-127 in the paperback edition)

    * What is the problem that has no name, and why does it have no name?

    * What is the feminine mystique, who promotes it, and who suffers by it?

    * What kinds of choices does Friedan report having made about her own career ambitions?

   * What kind of evidence does Friedan employ in her analysis of women’s happiness and satisfaction?

Apr 21

Reading from the Feminine Mystique, Chapter 4, Chapter 6, chapter 14 and chapter 15 (epilogue).

    * What happened in Seneca Falls in 1848?

    * Who were Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony, and what role did they play in 19th century feminism?

    * What kind of image (or mis-perception) is Friedan trying to defend the 19th century feminists from?

    * What is functionalism, and why in Friedan’s view is functionalist social theory inherently anti-feminist?




Week 5:


Apr 26

Wallerstein, Second Chances,

Read Chapters 1-7, plus chapters 15-18, and the Appendix.



* Why do the effects of divorce seem to last in children so long after the parental divorce itself?

* In what ways does divorce make parenting more difficult?

* What kinds of problems are the young adults having 10 and 15 years after their parents’ divorces?

* Who are the winners and losers in divorce?

* How were families recruited into Wallerstein’s study?

* How representative is Wallerstein’s sample of all children of divorce?

Apr 28

Betty Friedan, Feminine Mystique, Ch 5

Judith Stacey’s Op-Ed “Good Riddance to the Family” (linked on my website)

David Popenoe’s “Two Parent Families are Better” (linked on my website)



* How does Friedan characterize Freud and Freudian theory?

* Summarize the debate between Stacey and Popenoe




Week 6:


May 3

in-class Midterm assessment

May 5

Rosenfeld, The Age of Independence, Ch 1-3

     * What is Family Government, and what is its significance?

     * What was bundling?

     * What effects did the Great Depression, World War II, and post-war suburbanization have on American families?

      * What is the Independent Life Stage, when did it first appear, and what is its significance?

     * What is the trend for young adults to live independently from their parents?

     * What is the trend in age at first marriage?



Week 7:


May 10

Rosenfeld, The Age of Independence, Ch 4-7 see also Rosenfeld “Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress Through School”, available on my website


     * What are nontraditional unions, and what do their increasing numbers tell us?

     * What is the relationship between nontraditional unions and geographic mobility?

     * What explains the relationship between age and rate of interracial marriage?

    * How has childhood changed over time, and how do we know?

     * How do changes in childhood relate to other changes in the family system, such as the rise of the independent life stage?

     * What are the key factors that influence tolerance towards homosexuals?

     * What is demographic metabolism, and how does it work?

     * In what way does income and parental education explain some of the differences in children’s outcomes among different family types?

     * How different are children raised outside of the family system (raised in orphanages, for instance) from children raised within the family system? What are the policy implications?

      * What other reasons aside from demographic metabolism can explain the rapid increase in public support for same-sex marriage?

May 12

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

    * What are the politically Left arguments against same sex marriage?

    * What are the politically conservative arguments for same sex marriage?

    * What do these different political perspectives on same sex marriage tell us about the different political views of what marriage means?


      * What Supreme Court decision did Lawrence v. Texas reverse? What was different about Texas law and the Georgia law previously upheld in Bowers v. Hardwick?

      * What did the judge in the DeBoer v. Snyder trial conclude about the social science evidence relating to same-sex couples and their children?



Week 8:


May 17

Love Wins, read the whole book


Obergefell. v. Hodges 2015


            * Describe Jim Obergefell’s trajectory through the federal courts, why he sued, and what the result was at the federal trial, the federal appeals court, and the US Supreme Court.


Short GSS proposal due

May 19

 The Second Shift, chapters 1-6, 16, and 17

    * Define the second shift, and explain why it continues to exist

    * How do women rationalize allowing their husbands to do less than half of the work around the house?

    * In what ways do the new expectations of gender equality make married life easier or more difficult?




Week 9:


May 24

Memorial Day

May 26

Rudder, Dataclysm, Introduction, and chapters 1-7

    * What are the limitations for OK Cupid’s data for understanding relationships and dating in general?

    * What do OK Cupid data tell us about the differences in dating behavior and attractiveness by gender?

    * What do OK Cupid data tell us about how people of different races interact online?


Rudder, Dataclysm, finish the book

    * What are some of the downsides of an instantly connected world?

    * What can we learn about sexual behavior and attitudes and orientations from what people search for online?





Week 10:


May 31

GSS Paper due


Rosenfeld and Thomas: Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary


Rosenfeld and Thomas:

    * How has the way people meet partners changed over time, and why?

    * How are couples who meet online similar to and different from couples who meet offline?

    * What explains which groups are more likely to meet their partners online?

June 2

Last class, second half assessment