(Updated July 6, 2017)
The Family – SOCI 130 – OL



Instructor: Beverly Yuen Thompson
Email: bthompson@Siena.edu
Office Hours: online by appointment


Course Description and Learning Outcomes: This course will introduce students to sociological concepts and issues within contemporary family sociology. The intersections between the family and other social institutions will be a central component of this course. Diversity of families will be another central foundation for this course. Issues of privilege and inequality will be explored, as well as social justice as it pertains to families. Students will learn how to analyze academic texts, documentary films, write critical short essays, apply the sociological perspective to the institution of the family, and master assigned materials as demonstrated through online exams.

Required Text:

Cohen, Philip, N (2014) The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.


  • Discussion board (2 posts each 15 points for a total of 30 points)

There will be two discussion board postings where you will respond to a prompt about the assigned reading. See the discussion board thread for details on assignment. First post is due on July 21 by noon. Second due on August 4th by noon.

Exams (3 exams each 35 points for a total of 105 points) Each exam will have multiple choice and true/false questions. Each question is worth 2 points. Exams are cumulative. Answer within the time allocated. The exam will be on the blackboard page under the heading “exam 1, 2 or 3”. Exam 1 due noon July 18. Exam 2 July 27 by noon. Exam 3 due by noon on August 8.

Grade Scale: 135 Points

100-94 %= A (135-126)
90-93 % = A- (125-121)
88-89 % = B+ (120-118)
84-87 % = B (117-113)
80-83 % = B- (112-108)
78-79 % = C+ (107-105)
74-77 % = C (104-99)
70-73 % = C- (98-94)
66-69 % = D+ (93-89)
63-65 % = D (88-85)
60-62 % = D- (84-81)
59-0 %   = F (not passing) (80-0)

Grades are posted for each assignment on Blackboard. It is your responsibility to know how to check your grades on Blackboard, routinely check them for accuracy, and report any discrepancies immediately.

Make Up Policy: Late work will not be accepted.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is copying or paraphrasing someone else’s work and/or words without due credit and correct citation: it is not allowed. Consult Siena’s policy at http://www.siena.edu/level3col.aspx?menu_id=530&id=1548 . If you commit plagiarism, you will fail the assignment and be reported to the department chairperson.

Syllabus Updates: The syllabus is subject to change. Please check the latest online version of the syllabus for the most accurate information. Do not print out the syllabus because of this.

Pandemic/Emergency Preparedness: (a) You are instructed to bring all texts and a copy of the syllabus/course schedule home with you in the event of a college closure. The academic calendar will be adjusted upon reopening; so be prepared for the possibility of a short mini-semester; rescheduled class/exam period; and/or rescheduling of the semester, depending on the length of the closure.

(b) If your situation permits, you should continue with readings and assignments to the best of your ability, per the course schedule.

(c) You will be given instructions regarding how to deal with paper assignments requiring library or other required research by me, as needed.

(d) Online office hours will be used by me in order to maintain contact with my students. You will be able to check-in with questions that you have. If you do not have internet access available, I will also provide my home phone number and home address, as needed. Remember, internet, mail delivery, and telephone services may also be impacted by a pandemic or other emergency events.

(e) Finally, stay connected with information regarding the status of the college’s status and reopening schedule by monitoring the Siena website, www.siena.edu.

Course Schedule:

Module 1: Introduction to Sociology (July 10-12)

Introduction to course

What is Sociology?

Module 2: How do Sociologists Look at the Family? (July 13-14)

Chapter 1: A Sociology of the Family, p. 2-29

Module 3: History of the Family (July 15-16)

Chapter 2: The Family in History, p. 32-68

Watch video: Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were (2010)

Coontz is a faculty member at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and the director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families. She has published extensively on the topic of marriage and family life and is the author of several highly praised books, such as The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap and Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage.

Module 4: Race & Ethnicity (July 17-18)

Chapter 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, p. 72-109

Assignment: Blackboard exam 1 (completed by noon on July 18)

Module 5: Immigration (July 19-July 21)

Chapter 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, p. 72-109 (cont.)

Video: Documented (2014)
Jose Antonio Vargas began his immigrant journey at age 12, when he was sent to the United States from the Philippines by his mother to live with his grandparents in FedMountain View, California. After attending San Francisco State University, Vargas pursued a print journalism career — landing jobs at newspapers in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. for the Washington Post — all the while, managing to keep his true citizenship status a secret.


Assignment: Discussion board posting 1 due by noon July 21.

Module 6: Families and Social Class (July 22-24)

Chapter 4: Families and Social Class, p. 112-145

Video: Born Rich (2003)

The heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical empire, Jamie Johnson, points his documentary lens in the direction of some privileged children who stand to inherit millions in the not-so-distant future. Johnson manages to pry revelations from heirs with some famous last names – Trump, Bloomberg and Vanderbilt, to name a few. They speak frankly about money, family pressure and their often extravagant lifestyle.

https://youtu.be/8o46HH-TfNY (YouTube)

https://play.google.com/store/movies/details?id=OVbBVftUkCU (pay)

Video: Inequality for All (2013)

A documentary that follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he looks to raise awareness of the country’s widening economic gap.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HQAI8EW 

Module 7: Work (July 25-27)

Chapter 11: Work and Families, p. 378-413

Assignment: Blackboard Exam 2 (due by noon on July 27)

Module 8: Gender (July 28-30)

Chapter 5: Gender, p. 148-185

Module 9: Sexuality (July 31-August 1)

Chapter 6: Sexuality, p. 186-223

Video: How to Lose Your Virginity

Description: How To Lose Your Virginity is an eye-opening and irreverent documentary journey through religion, history, pop culture and $30 internet hymens. By turns hilarious and horrifying, the film reveals the myths and misogyny behind virginity in America, and what we can do to change the conversation.  A film by Therese Shechter, director of I Was A Teenage Feminist.

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/howtoloseyourvirginity ($3.99)

Module 10: Relationships (August 2-4)

Chapter 7: Love and Romantic Relationships, p. 224-256

Video: The Mobile Love Industry

The smartphone has become the crucial link in modern relationships, it facilitates far more connections than real-world interaction ever allowed — from dating app geniuses who use data and game theory to hack the system, to the darker side of digital love, where app addiction runs rampant and users find themselves endlessly swiping in an empty search for more. Karley Sciortino will take on the task of determining where the human search for love is headed in the 21st century. She’ll meet with the brains behind these dating apps and try each of the most promising apps out using her own love life as a testing ground.


Assignment: Discussion board posting 2 (Due August 4 by noon).

Module 11: Families Formations (August 5-8)

Chapter 9: Families and Children, p. 302-339

Video: The Business of Being Born

Birth: it’s a miracle. A rite of passage. A natural part of life. But more than anything, birth is a business. Compelled to find answers after a disappointing birth experience with her first child, actress Ricki Lake recruits filmmaker Abby Epstein to explore the maternity care system in America.

https://youtu.be/KvljyvU_ZGE (free)

https://youtu.be/QvCIxm1juho (paid)


Assignment: Blackboard exam 3 (August 8 completed by noon)