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S19 SO 205 Syllabus

Boston University
Instructor: Max Greenberg
Email: [email protected]
Office Location: 96-100 Cummington Mall, 267
Office Hours: Wed 1:30-2:30pm, Fri 11:30-12:30am
& by appointment
CAS SO 205 A1
Spring 2019
Time: M/W/F 10:10-11:00am
Location: WED 140
In the contemporary U.S., “family” is one of the fundamental ways we identify ourselves in relation to others.
For this reason, it is a key institution for sociological study; to understand social life, we must understand how
families are organized, how they impact the allocation of resources, and how they socialize us into our core
values, beliefs, and identities. In this course, we will consider how family membership shapes society by
examining not only the quintessential “nuclear family,” but also a variety of diverse family formations. We will
challenge the dominant definitions of family and think about family as a historically and geographically
contingent social construction. This course pays special attention to the relationships between family and
social inequality and emphasizes the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the operation of
family dynamics and politics.
Social Inquiry I (one unit)
Focusing on the arena of family, students will identify and apply major concepts used in the social sciences.
These include (but are not limited to): social roles, culture, social inequalities (including social class, gender,
race, sexualities), social institutions.
Critical Thinking (one unit)
Through course readings, lectures, class discussions, exams and assignments that require students to
examine the family as a social institution from diverse theoretical perspectives (e.g. functionalist, feminist,
family systems), students will engage in key elements of critical thinking. More specifically, students will
learn how to assess everyday “common sense” ideas, media discourse, or other claims circulating in the
public sphere about family life and relationships through social scientific standards of evidence and reason.
Students will learn the distinction between normative or evaluative judgments on the one hand and
empirically-based claims rooted in social science on the other; and they will construct their own social
scientific arguments while assessing the validity of others’ arguments.
• This course will introduce students to significant theoretical and empirical research within the
sociological study of families.
Students will learn both the history and the contemporary realities of the institution of the American
This course will focus on the ways in which families socialize us into not only the identities of mother,
father, daughter, son, and so forth, but also into raced, classed, gendered, and sexual identities.
Students will learn about and discuss major contemporary family issues, including changing trends in
marriage and cohabitation, single parenthood and blended families, and queer parenthood, among
In addition, this class will draw on examples from film, music, and social media to provide students with a
well-rounded and contextual understanding of the family in the contemporary U.S.
Risman, B. & Rutter, V. (Eds.). 2015. Families as They Really Are, 2nd Edition. W.W. Norton & Company,
Barnes, R. 2015. Raising the Race: Black Career Women Redefine Marriage, Motherhood, and
Community. Rutgers University Press
Pfeffer, C. 2016. Queering Families: The Postmodern Partnerships of Cisgender Women and Transgender
Men. Oxford University Press.
Course books are available for purchase at the BU Barnes & Noble and at online retailers. All other readings
are available on Blackboard or via BU’s online library databases.
The Sociology of Your Family (20%): This 8-10-page paper asks you to interpret your own family using
what you have learned about the sociology of the family. Drawing on original research, you will situate
your family within the broader theoretical, historical and demographic issues of the course. The prompt
for this assignment will be posted on Blackboard six weeks before the due date and we will spend class
time discussing your approach. The assignment must be turned in through Blackboard by 11:59pm on the
due date. Papers turned in after the deadline will be considered late and docked one full letter grade.
Late papers will be docked another letter grade for every 24 hours they are late.
Exams (40%): There will be three exams: two midterms each worth 10% of your grade and a final exam
worth 20%. These exams cover the key facts, concepts, theories, and demographic trends from the
readings and lectures. Make-up examinations will be given only to those absent for university-approved
reasons, and must be conducted within one week of the exam date. To qualify for a make-up exam, you
must contact me before the exam date and time.
Book Presentation (15%): In small groups, students will give a 15-20-minute presentation that
summarizes a book in the field of sociology of the family. I have a list of books for you to choose from, or
your group may present on a book of your choice once you have received approval from me. Read the
book well ahead of time and talk with your group about how to organize your presentation. Your goal is
to present the best, most condensed and impactful aspects of the book in a way that is engaging and
informative. In your presentation, describe the key empirical findings and novel concepts from the book,
and cite examples from the text. Discuss how the insights from the book might lead us to rethink other
readings from the course, social policy, and/or personal experience. Do not simply summarize the book
chapter by chapter.
Blackboard posts (10%): At least ten times throughout the semester you are required to post a
substantive “extension” of the readings. These posts should be no more than two paragraphs in length.
Each post should be a critical reflection or reaction to some aspect of the readings (not just a summary);
You are encouraged to refer to other course readings in these reactions as a way of critically examining
how different writers understand, analyze and explain various aspects of families. This might include
practical or theoretical questions. For each class meeting, there will be a designated thread where you
will post your reflection. Reflections should be posted to the Blackboard site by midnight the day before
readings are due. Late posts will not receive credit. You are responsible for keeping track of your posts.
Extra credit will not be given for submitting additional posts, but you are welcome to do so.
Participation (15%): Simply put: do the reading on time, show up and contribute. Your participation
should be grounded in the week’s readings and utilize a sociological perspective.
GRADING: Final letter grades will be assigned using this scale:
94.00-100.00 = A
77.00-79.99 = C+
90.00-93.99 = A74.00-76.99 =C
87.00-89.99 = B+
70.00-73.99 = C84.00-86.99 = B
60.00-69.99 = D
80.00-83.99 = BAnything below 60 = F
CLASS ENVIRONMENT: This course may challenge some of your core assumptions about how the world works
and your place in it. This can be messy and we won’t always agree. I encourage you to voice your perspective
and articulate your stance. To ensure a respectful class discussion, please follow these guidelines: Listen to
others, let them finish, engage thoughtfully. Do not read or work on other assignments during class, or talk
to/chat/text the person next to you (or anyone else) while others are speaking. Please turn off or silence cell
phones while in class – absolutely no texting in class. I do not expect you to agree with everything you read or
hear. Our goal is to develop the skills to use sociology to analyze the issues raised in the course and, when
appropriate, to situate our own experiences within sociological research and theory.
ELECTRONICS: In lecture, you may use laptop computers, mobile phones, ipads or any other electronic
devices for class purposes only: reviewing readings, directed research, and note taking. Use of electronic
devises for other purposes will impact your grade. Please don’t do it.
SYLLABUS: The syllabus is a contract for the course. Consult it regularly. Before asking about assignments,
grade policies, and due dates, please check the syllabus to be sure the answer is not included there already.
Please note that I reserve the right to alter the syllabus during the semester if needed. I will provide notice of
any changes in this course through Blackboard, which links to your university provided email account, so
please keep your email information up-to-date.
ATTENDANCE: Be on time to class. If you expect to miss multiple classes, please let me know and we can
work together to make a plan to keep you on track. If you miss a class, please check with a classmate to find
out what material was covered. If you still have questions, then contact me, or attend office hours to discuss
whatever questions you have. Student athletes must provide the instructor with a game schedule for the
semester, signed by the coach, to be eligible for an excused absence. In accordance with BU policy, if there is
a religious holy day that will cause your absence, please notify me with the first two weeks of class.
LATE EXAMS & ASSIGNMENTS: I only allow make-up exams with a pre-approved, university-excused reason.
Assignments are considered late if they have not been turned in online by the due date and time.
Assignments turned in after the due date/time will be docked one letter grade (i.e. An “A” paper will only be
eligible for a “B” grade); 24 hours later, another letter grade, and so on. It is students’ responsibility to
confirm that their assignments are submitted on Blackboard. If you have trouble submitting, then it is your
responsibility to submit the document to your TF over email.
ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: Familiarize yourself with the University Undergraduate Conduct Code:
http://www.bu.edu/academics/resources/academic-conduct-code. It is your responsibility to read this
material and comply fully with it. Academic misconduct is the misrepresentation of one’s academic
achievement and includes cheating on examinations, falsely indicating your own or another’s attendance in
class, and plagiarizing written work. All cases that violate the rules set by Boston University on scholastic
dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties, including but not limited to failure in the course. If you have
any questions or concerns about avoiding plagiarism in your papers and written work, please do not hesitate
to consult me. Most course papers will be turned in through SafeAssign, an online plagiarism detection
COMMUNICATION: Contact me if you have questions, thoughts, or are struggling with any of the course
material. This is why I hold weekly office hours. If you cannot meet during the scheduled office hours, email
me to schedule an appointment.
DISABILITY SERVICES: It is both the University’s and my job to create a welcoming space for all abilities and
learning styles. If you need accommodations due to a disability, contact the Office for Disability Services
(ODS) at [email protected], 617-353-3658, 19 Buick Street, http://www.bu.edu/disability. This office provides
documentation and coordinates assistance for students needing learning accommodations for such
disabilities as limited vision, limited hearing, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and psychiatric
disabilities. If you have accommodations, please let me know within the first two weeks of class so that I can
make sure that they are arranged in a timely manner.
EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES CENTER: For academic assistance, including for help with papers for the course,
please schedule an appointment with the Educational Resources Center, located in the George Sherman
Union, 775 Commonwealth Ave 4th floor: 617-353- 7077, http://www.bu.edu/erc/
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: We will cover a variety of sensitive topics in this course. Take care of yourself. The
following organizations can provide support:
Behavioral Medicine & Mental Health Support
617-353-3569, http://www.bu.edu/shs/behavioral/
Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism
617-358-5575, http://www.bu.edu/cgsa/
Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground
617-353-4745, http://www.bu.edu/thurman/about/
Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center
617-353-SARP, http://www.bu.edu/sarp/
University Service Center
617-358-1818, http://www.bu.edu/usc/
Additional academic and emotional support services are listed here:
Wed Jan 23
No readings
Risman & Rutter: Springing Forward from the Past: An Introduction
Cherlin: One Thousand and Forty-Nine Reasons Why It’s Hard to Know When a Fact Is
a Fact
Cowan: When Is a Relationship between Facts a Causal One?
Burton: Uncovering Hidden Facts that Matter in Interpreting Individuals’ Behaviors: An
Ethnographic Lens
CCF Brief: Anthony Mancini and George A. Bonanno: The Trouble with Averages: The
Impact of Major Life Events and Acute Stress May Not Be What You Think
In the News: “When Numbers Mislead,” by Stephanie Coontz (New York Times)
Jan 25
Mon Jan 28
Wed Jan 30
Feb 1
“The Changing American Family,” New York Times (Bb)
Coontz: The Evolution of American Families
Powell, Bolzendahl, Geist, & Steelman: Changing Counts, Counting Change:
Americans’ Movement toward a More Inclusive De\finition of Family
In Other Words: “FAFSA Form Will Now Recognize College Students’ Same-Sex
Parents,” by Crosby Burns (ThinkProgress)
Mintz: American Childhood as a Social and Cultural Construct
In the News: “A ‘Golden Age’ of Childhood?” by Steven Mintz (Christian Science
CCF Brief: Susan Matt: Homesick Kids and Helicopter Parents: Are Today’s Young
Adults Too Emotionally Dependent on Parents?
Franklin: African Americans and the Birth of the Modern Marriage
Rockquemore & Henderson: Interracial Families in Post-Civil Rights America
CCF Brief: Kimberlyn Fong: Changes in Interracial Marriage
Aldarondo & Ameen: The Immigration Kaleidoscope: Knowing the Immigrant Family
Next Door
In the News: “The Picture-Perfect American Family? These Days It Doesn’t Exist,” by
Andrew J. Cherlin (Washington Post)
Mon Feb 4
Wed Feb 6
Feb 8
Schwartz: Why Is Everyone Afraid of Sex?
Nack: First Comes Love, then Comes Herpes: Sexual Health and Relationships
CCF Facts: Adina Nack: Valentine’s Day Fact Sheet on Sexual Health
In Other Words: “Can We Have the HPV Vaccine Without the Sexism and the
Homophobia?” by Adina Nack (Ms. magazine blog)
In Other Words: “Hooking Up as College Culture,” by Rachel Allison (Gender & Society
Gerson: Falling Back on Plan B: The Children of the Gender Revolution Face Uncharged
CCF Facts: Jonathan Bearak and Paula England: Women’s Education and Their
Likelihood of Marriage: A Historic Reversal
In the News: “Women Say ‘I do’ to Education, then Marriage,” by Leslie Mann
(Chicago Tribune)
Smock & Manning: New Couples, New Families: The Cohabitation Revolution in the
United States
CCF Brief: Arielle Kuperberg: Does Premarital Cohabitation Raise Your Risk of Divorce?
Book Group 1
Mon Feb 11
Wed Feb 13
Feb 15
Avishai, Health & Randles: The Marriage Movement
In the News: “How to Stay Married,” by Stephanie Coontz (Times of London)
CCF Brief: Kristi Williams: Promoting Marriage among Single Mothers: An Ineffective
Weapon in the War on Poverty?
In the News: “No, Marriage Is Not a Good Way to Fight Poverty,” by Bryce Covert
CCF Symposium: Why Interracial Marriage Is Good for Black Women
In the News: “Stanford Law Professor Argues Black Women Should Cross Race Barrier
for Marriage Partners,” by Lisa M. Krieger (San Jose Mercury News)
In Other Words: “Interracial Marriages and the Meaning of Multiraciality,” by Jennifer
Lee (Sociological Images)
In Other Words: “The Coolest Thing About Online Dating Sites,” by Jenny Davis
Green: From Outlaws to In-Laws: Gay and Lesbian Couples in Contemporary Society
In Other Words: “Some States See Fight for Right to Same-Sex Divorce,” by Holbrook
Mohr and David Crary (Associated Press)
Book Group 2
Tue Feb 19
Wed Feb 20
Feb 22
Struening: Families “In Law” and Families “In Practice”: Does the Law Recognize
Families as They Really Are?
Blackstone & Greenleaf: Childfree Families
CCF Facts: Eric Klinenberg, Stacy Torres, and Elena Portacolone: Aging Alone in
In the News: “Loneliness and Race in the Twilight Years,” by Elahe Izadi (DCentric)
Rutter: The Case for Divorce
In the News: “The Good the Bad and the Ugly of Divorce,” by Cheryl Wetzstein
(Washington Times)
In Other Words: “Silver Linings Divorce Trend,” by Philip Cohen (FamilyInequality)
Coleman & Ganong: Stepfamilies as They Really Are: Neither Cinderella nor the Brady
Cowan & Cowan: Beyond Family Structure: Family Process Studies Help to Reframe
Debates about What’s Good for Children
CCF Brief: Philip Cohen: Was the War on Poverty a Failure? Or Are Anti-Poverty Efforts
Swimming Simply Against a Stronger Tide?
Book Group 3
Mon Feb 25
Edin & Nelson, "Thank you, Jesus" (Bb)
Wed Feb 27
Gamson, “Reba, Live! " (Bb)
Davis & Owen: Life in a Dual-Earner Couple Before, During, and After the Great
Moore: Independent Women: Equality in African American Lesbian Relationships
In Other Words: “Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex and Housework but
Were Too Busy to Ask,” by Brigid Schulte (Washington Post)
Mar 1
Mon Mar 4
Wed Mar 6
Mar 8
Sullivan: Men’s Changing Contribution to Family Work
In the News: “It’s Not Just Us: Women Around the World Do More Housework and
Have Less Free Time,” by Bryce Covert (ThinkProgress)
Myers & Demantas: Being “The Man” Without Having a Job and/or Providing Care
Instead of “Bread”
CCF Symposium: Equal Pay Symposium: Fifty Years Since the Equal Pay Act of 1963
In the News: “Yes, I've Folded Up My Masculine Mystique, Honey,” by Stephanie
Coontz (The Sunday Times of London)
In Other Words: “Still a Man’s World,” by Philip Cohen (Boston Review)
Book Group 4
Mon Mar 18
Banerjee: When Men Stay Home: Household Labor in Female-Led Indian Migrant
In the News: “An Immigrant Wife’s Place? In the Home, According to Visa Policy,” by
Pallavi Banerjee (Ms. magazine blog)
Sykes & Pettit: Mass Incarceration and Family Life
In Other Words: “Doing Time = Doing Gender,” by Virginia E. Rutter (Girl w/ Pen)
Wed Mar 20
Pfeffer, Introduction: Queer Families and the Development of the Sociological
Pfeffer, 1: Trans Partnerships and Families: Historical Traces and Contemporary
Book Group 5
Mar 22
Mon Mar 25
Pfeffer, 2: Identity Shifts, Recognition, and Intersectionality in Trans Partnerships and
Wed Mar 27
Pfeffer, 3: Queering Family Labor: Managing Households, Relationships, and
Pfeffer, 4: Bodies, Sexuality, and Intimacy in Trans Partnerships and Families
Book Group 6
Mon Apr 1
Pfeffer, 5: (Re)producing Trans Families: Accessing Social, Legal, and Medical
Recognition and Technologies
Wed Apr 3
Pfeffer, 6: It Takes a Village, People: Social Strain and Support for Trans Partnerships
and Families
Pfeffer, Conclusion: Toward Broader and More Inclusive Notions of Family in the
Twenty-First Century
Mar 29
Apr 5
Coleman: Parenting Adult Children in the Twenty-First Century
In the News: “Lean Times Force Many Bay Area 'Boomerang Kids' to Return Home as
Adults,” by Hannah Dreier and Paul Burgarino (San Jose Mercury News)
CCF Brief: Elizabeth Gregory: Myths of Later Motherhood
In the News: “Number of Older Women Having Babies Continues to Grow,” by Lois M.
Collins (Deseret News)
Garcia: “This Is Your Job Now”: Latina Mothers and Daughters and Family Work
Quiroz: Adoptive Parents Raising Neoethnics
Mon Apr 8
Wed Apr 10
Apr 12
Davis: Parents as Pawns: Intersex, Medical Experts, and Questionable Consent
In the News: Op-Ed: “Hey Fox News, Intersex Is Not a Punchline,” by Sean Saifa Wall
and Georgiann Davis (Advocate.com)
Dozier: The Power of Queer: How “Guy Moms” Challenge Heteronormative
Assumptions about Mothering and Family
In Other Words: “Dress Shopping and Gender Bending: Why I’m Wearing a Suit and a
Veil,” by Ashir Leah KaneRisman (The Offbeat Bride)
In Other Words: “Class and Race Demographics of LGBT Families,” by Lisa Wade
(Sociological Images)
Brainer: Growing Up with a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual Sibling
Furstenberg: Diverging Development: The Not-So-Invisible Hand of Social Class in the
United States
CCF Brief: Annette Lareau: Unequal Childhoods: Inequalities and the Rhythms of Daily
Roy & Cabrera: Not Just Provide and Reside: Engaged Fathers in Low-Income Families
In Other Words: “More Similarities than Differences in Study of Race and
Fatherhood,” by Lisa Wade (Sociological Images)
Book Group 7
Wed Apr 17
Barnes, Preface
Barnes, Introduction: Black Career Women and Strategic Mothering
Barnes, Chapter 1 The Role of Black Women in Black Family Survival Strategies
Barnes, Chapter 2 Black Professional Women, Careers, and Family “Choice”
Book Group 8
Mon Apr 22
Barnes, Chapter 3 “Just in Case He Acts Crazy”: Strategic Mothering and the Collective
Memory of Black Marriage and Family
Wed Apr 24
Barnes, Chapter 4 Enculturating the Black Professional Class
Sociology of Your Family due Sunday, April 28
Barnes, Chapter 5 Black Career Women, the Black Community, and the Neo-Politics of
Barnes, Conclusion
Barnes, Epilogue: Whatever Happened To . . .
Risman: Families: A Great American Institution
Apr 19
Apr 26
Mon Apr 29
Wed May 1
May 7
**Note: this schedule is open to adjustments as we proceed. I will announce changes in class and put notices
on the course’s webpage under “Announcements.” Also: “Bb” means that the reading is on the Blackboard
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