Soc 155/255   

The Changing American Family



Reading Questions; Check back regularly for updates

Rev 8/3/2012




Week 1:


Sept 24

Introduction to the class

Sept 26

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:


Oct 1

 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?

Oct 3

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:


Oct 8

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?


Oct 10

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:


Oct 15

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?

Oct 17

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:


Oct 22

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?

Oct 24

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:


Oct 29

In-class Midterm

Oct 31

Rosenfeld, The Age of Independence, Ch 1-2

     * 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?



Week 7:


Nov 5

Rosenfeld, The Age of Independence, Ch 3,4,5

     * 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?

     * 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?

Nov 7

Rosenfeld, The Age of Independence, Ch 6,7 also Rosenfeld “Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress Through School”, available on my website

     * 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?



Week 8:


Nov 12

Rosenfeld, The Age of Independence, Ch 8,9

     * Identify the following Supreme Court decisions, and explain their significance: Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, Loving v. Virginia, Roe v. Wade, Loving v. Virginia, Bowers v. Hardwick, Lawrence v. Texas.

     * Identify the following state court same-sex marriage decisions, and explain their significance: Baehr v. Miike, Baker v. State, Goodridge v. Dept of Public Health.

     * Explain the significance of the US Defense of Marriage Act (1996).

     * How has the nature of privacy rights changed in the US since 1965, and what explains the change?

Nov 14

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?


Rosenfeld, “Couple Longevity”

    * What do we know about the stability of same-sex couples and of heterosexual couples? What role does marriage play in couple stability? How does Rosenfeld define marriage for same-sex couples?




Week 9:


Nov 19

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

    * What are the legal precedents for same sex marriage, and what is the current legal status of same sex marriage?

    * What do incest, polygamy, and adultery have to do with same sex marriage?

    * What does the 'slippery slope' argument imply about marriage and history?

Nov 21

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 10:


Dec 3

GSS Paper due


Rosenfeld and Thomas: How has the way people meet partners changed over time, and why?

Dec 5

Final Exam Review