Sociology of the family


Answer the following questions for the first page.

1. Divorce and Remarriage

– What are the general trends in the divorce rate over the last 80 years?

– What are the commonly cited explanations for the high divorce rate in the United States since 1960?

– What are typically cited as the consequences of the advent of no-fault divorce laws in the

– According to divorce pessimists, what are the negative consequences due to divorce? What do they regard as the negative impact of divorce on children?

– What are the “optimist” family scholar’s key arguments about divorce?

– What are Coontz’s (a divorce optimist) proposals to minimize the negative
consequences of divorce?

– What do pessimist family scholars advocate in order to reduce the divorce rate?

– What is the relationship between class and the tendency to divorce over the last 20 years?

– What percent of remarriages end in divorce?

– What kind of problems are children, especially girls, more likely to face in stepfamilies?

– What kind of family situations are more likely to produce problems between children and their stepparents?

2. Family Violence

– When does domestic abuse start to be perceived as a significant social problem?

– Approximately what percentage of women are victims of intimate partner violence?

– What are the individual level factors that make a person more likely to commit an act of domestic violence?
– What are the societal level explanations for domestic violence?

– What is Messner’s critique of the argument that domestic violence is equally likely to be committed by men and women?

– According to Johnson, what are the two types of family violence? What are the key differences between the two?

3. Parenting

– What happens to the role of mothers in the Victorian era?

– According to Hays, what are the “cultural contradictions” of motherhood?

– What is meant by the term “intensive mothering”?

– What are the problems facing stay at home mothers? What are the problems facing working mothers?

– According to Warner, what problems are commonly found among middle and upper middle class mothers?

– According to Warner, what are the sources of middle and upper middle class mother’s “madness”?

– What happens to fathers, especially middle-class fathers, with advent of Victorian era?

– What happens to the perception of children during the Victorian era?

– What are the main arguments of “soft” child-raising experts?

– What are the main arguments of “hard” child-raising experts?

– What is Dr. Spock’s general advice to parents in the 1940s and 1950s?

Pick any of the questions 1-4 and write an essay about one.

1. Identify the most common explanations for the overall increase in divorce since 1960. What do divorce pessimists regard as the negative consequences of divorce, especially for children? Discuss Coontz’s suggestions for minimizing the negative consequences of divorce. In your opinion, what is the most important thing that could be done to lessen the negative consequences of divorce? Explain. Lastly, do you think Max and Kate’s marriage in Thernstrom’s article could have been preserved? Why or why not?

2. As explained in lecture notes, summarize both the individual and social explanations for high levels of domestic violence in the U.S. As described in Sontag’s article, discuss the reasons why women often fail to press charges against abusive husbands/live-in partners, or boyfriends? In your opinion, what is the best way to help a woman like Galla (see pages 56-57 in Sontag’s article)? Lastly, which societal level solution would be most effective in reducing domestic violence – especially the kind of intimate terrorism discussed in the textbook and in the documentary Private Violence? Elaborate.

3. Briefly explain what Hays means when she talks about the “cultural contradictions” of motherhood. According to Hays, what are the difficulties faced by 1) stay at home and 2) mothers that work outside the home? What does Warner view as the causes of middle and upper middle class mothers’ “madness”? Do you think that the issues described by Hays and Warner affect a significant number of mothers? Moreover, is it primarily a middle (and upper middle) class phenomenon? Defend your answer.

4. Briefly discuss the key trends with respect to marriage and child-bearing described by Sawhill. As explained in the Sawhill article, what are the arguments of, respectively, conservatives and liberals, about single parents and the restoration of marriage? What are Sawhill’s recommendations for reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies and fostering an “ethic of responsible parenthood”? Do you agree with her arguments? Why or why not?

– Responsible for Following Readings:

Chapter 10: 191-192, 196-201
Chapter 12: 230-237, 243-245
Chapter 14: 271 – 289
Thernstrom: “Untying the Knot” in The New York Times Magazine (pps. 38, 40-44) (*)
Sontag: “Fierce Entanglements” in The New York Times Magazine (pps. 52, 54- 57, 62, 84) (*)
Sawhill: “Beyond Marriage” in The New York Times (pps. 1-6)
Warner: “Mommy Madness” in Newsweek (pps. 1-8)