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Family and Community

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Course Outline

Students study the variety and dynamics of family and community in contemporary society with critical examination of significant issues. How families and communities adapt to change in society is discussed. Special attention is paid to changing trends, variations in families, gender relations, family violence, community oriented interventions, and social policies.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course the students will be able to:

1. Apply major sociological perspectives and theories to the study of the family and community.
2. Identify the role of culture and socialization in shaping of the family and community.
3. Explain the distinguishing features of the community versus the society and the historical transformations of the family and communities.
4. Describe the impacts of technological changes on the dynamics of the family and community.
5. Identify the influences of the state, the economy, and other social structures on the family and the community.

Required Texts

Baker, Maureen, editor
 2005 Families: Changing Trends in Canada, Fifth Edition.
   Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Bartle, Phil
 2005 The Sociology of Communities
   Victoria, Canada: Camosun Imaging

Note:  Additional web-based readings will be assigned.

Method of Instruction

The course is on line. Students will read the assigned material and answer the question for each topic

Basis of Student Assessment

In evaluating the papers the emphasis will be on understanding and analysis, rather than recitation of facts.  Avoid memorizing sentences, in particular when it is not clear to you what the sentences mean.  As for analysis, your learning strategy should be to understand the relationships among facts, not the facts alone.  Another important aspect of your paper is illustration.  After discussion and analysis, give examples from current or historical developments in society.  This will show that you understand the concepts and theories and are able to apply them to society as tools for analysis.  More specifically, each paper must:

1. show a full understanding of the thesis and the main arguments of the topic;
2. cover all the major components of the topic;
3. be organized and cohesive;
4. be written in clear English and communicate ideas effectively;
5. focus on the topic and avoid unrelated material from other topics or elsewhere;
6. avoid “fillers”, padding, repetitions, and vague generalities which can be used for any exam topic; and
7. illustrate the theory by giving appropriate examples, thus “applying” the theory to society.

Course Content and Study Guide

Lectures will focus on explaining and answering the following topics and questions.  These topics and questions, in turn, will constitute the source from which the examination questions will be chosen through a random selection process at the time of the exam. The card symbol in front of each question identifies the card which, if drawn out of a hat, will identify an exam question.

I. Introduction to Family and Community: The Sociological Perspective

A. Explain how sociology differs from psychology and social work.  How can it contribute to the understanding of families and communities? To what extent is sociology, "A way of looking at things about which we already know?"  Bartle, Chapter 1

2. Examine cultural variations and demographic trends in the institution of the family. Baker, Chapter 1

II. Culture and Socialization

3. Discuss the meaning of culture and the role of symbols, the relationship between culture and the individual, cultural conflict, subcultures, cultural hegemony, and cultural transcendence.     Bartle, Chapter 2

4. Examine how society and culture reproduce themselves through the socialization process, the Sapir-Whorf question on language and meaning, the agents of socialization, secondary socialization, and the sociological perspective on the socialization process (social control).    Bartle,Chapter 4, and Web readings

5. Explain the meaning of “cultural dimension” and examine the six dimensions of culture and community, namely belief-conceptual, aesthetic-value, institutional-interactional, political, economic, and technological.     Bartle, Chapter 5

III.  The Major Perspectives in Sociology

6. Examine the functionalist, symbolic interactionist and conflict approaches to the study of society, and discuss the idea that "A society is not a group of people."   Bartle, Chapter 3

IV. Community and Society

7. Distinguish the features of community vs. society, and explain the nature of “community spirit,” romanticizing the community, mean spirited community, natural and constructed communities, identity and stereotyping of communities, and the relationships among the society, family, and community.  Bartle, Chapter 6

V. Bureaucracy, Organizational Strength, and Inequality

8. Examine Weber’s perspective on rationalization and its relationship to disenchantment, and discuss his views on types of authority (traditional, legal-rational, charismatic) and on bureaucracy and its characteristics.     Bartle, Chapter 7, and Web readings

9. Examine the critical theories of class structure and discuss whether Canadian society constitutes a “vertical mosaic.”     Bartle, Chapter 8, and Web readings

10. Utilizing Weber’s ideal model of bureaucracy, explain how communities (or families, not both) are stronger and have greater capacity to achieve their goals when they are more and better organized, and review the sixteen elements of the community (or family) that change as the community gets stronger.     Bartle, Chapter 7

J. Examine the factors that perpetuate poverty—such as the economic system, ignorance, disease, apathy, and dishonesty by those in positions of power, dependency—and explain how we can seek to eradicate poverty through empowering people and the community, especially through participation.     Bartle, Chapter 14, and Web readings

VI. Conceptualizing Families

Q. Distinguish between incest and child sexual molestation. Why are biological theories inadequate to explain the intensity of horror we feel about incest? What other two features of human culture appear related to the taboo in the origin of human culture, and why?  Bartle Chapter 9

K. Examine the contemporary sociological theories as applied to the family, namely structural-functionalism, symbolic interactionism, systems theory, exchange theory, Marxist, and feminist theories.   Baker, Chapter 2

A. Explain how the ideal of the nuclear family appeared with the industrial revolution, and identify the seven biases in family literature and describe the reasons why they are problematic.   Baker, Chapter 3

VIII. The Dynamics of Family Life

4. Using Bartle’s presentation of Akan kinship, discuss the idea that elements of kinship may be cultural universals, namely affinity and descent, but the family as we know it is not a cultural universal. What difficulties result for Akan immigrants to Canada, and for professionals (eg social workers, police, nurses, teachers) who may have Akan clients.

5. Cultural reproduction is the responsibility of the whole society.  What are the implications for families and for the state in this assertion?  How have the roles of the family changed, with respect to socialization of children, over the last fifty years?   Baker, Chapter 8

6. Elders and seniors are more highly respected in many traditional, immigrant and First Nations families than in most main stream Canadian families. Expound and explain why.     Baker, Chapter 9

IX. Families, Laws, and Policies

7. Identify a family problem and distinguish between its being a psychological problem and a social problem. Describe an example where a family problem may be resolved though community oriented methods.  What problems may arise, and what advantages would accrue to this approach?     Baker, Chapter 10

8. Describe the “narrow” and “broad” definitions of family violence, the implications of the language and labeling, psychological vs. physical violence, and explain and illustrate the theories of spousal violence against both male and female partners and violence against children. Baker, Chapter 11

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