COM 597 Research in Family Communication

Spring, 2012












Office: NF 230B Office hours: TR 12:00 - 1:30; W 4:00 - 5:30 and happily by appointment

Phone: X6558

Course objectives:

  1. You will understand the history of the family.
  2. You will be aware of the variety and complexity of issues facing the American family today.
  3. You will be aware of family issues from the perspective of a variety of viewpoints including gender, race, ethnicity, family structure and class.
  4. You will be able to critically analyze, synthesize and evaluate these issues from a communication perspective.

Teaching Philosophy

My job here is to facilitate your learning; to provide you with a variety of opportunities to learn the content of this course. That includes applying it to the "real world" and considering your own role in a family oriented society. To achieve these goals, I am willing to work with any student who is willing to work as well. But, I expect you to work. If you do your part; i.e., come to class prepared, having read and considered the material, completed assignments thoroughly and on time, I absolutely enjoy doing my part. If you have questions or concerns about the class, assignments or content, you should consult with me about those either in person or via email. My services as a facilitator and guide come with the tuition you paid for the course, do not be shy about using them!

Class policies:

Late work: While I do accept late work, each day late is subject to up to 20% reduction in points (which means after five days, you have pretty much earned a 0). If you are having a technical problem, have questions about the assignment, or are having other issues which make it difficult for you to complete the assignment on time, always let me know before the assignment is due. Plan for technological obstacles, i.e, if your computer or internet at home goes down, what can you do (get to campus, go to a library etc.). As is stated elsewhere, waiting until the last minute, almost assures you will have technical problems!

My availability: I check my email multiple times a day during the week. I check it once or twice on Saturday. I do not do email on Sunday as that is reserved for family, football and, having some down time. So, you can expect me to get back to you fairly quickly, but not necessarily within a half hour or so. Remember, you can also call me in the office during office hours or chat online during that time (see chat room, Dixson's Office).

Civility expectations: While you are not required to agree with everyone's opinions, you are required to respect them in class (email, discussion forums etc.). However, because you have an opinion, does not mean it is a valid opinion! Back up your statements with facts, direct experiences, concepts from the text, etc. Use appropriate netiquette: no flaming, respect each other, etc.

Helpful places on campus:

Services for Students with a Disability: If you have a disability or acquire one and want to find out about what special services and accommodations are available, you may contact Services for Students with Disabilities in WALB 113.
Writing Center: Can help you with general writing problems or specific assignments (including APA research papers) in KT G19.
CASA (Center for Academic Support and Advancement): Offers many kinds of services to students including tutoring in KT G23.
Helmke Library offers research librarians who can help you find what you need.



90 - 93% A-
94 - 100% A
80 - 82% B-
83 - 86% B
87 - 89% B+
70 - 72% C-
73 - 76% C
77 - 79% C+
60 - 62% D-
63 - 66%; D
67 - 69% D+
0 - 59% F


Discussions: A good deal of what you will learn in this class will be from scholarly discussion with your peers. Therefore, attendance is important to your learning. Be here, be prepared, contribute! Most weeks there will be questions to guide your reading of the text chapters as well as occasional extra readings from the Internet. You are expected to have answers prepared for those questions although you, generally, will not be turning these in.

Book analysis/evaluation paper: Each student is required to write an analysis/evaluation paper of the three whole books (as opposed to the edited volumes) read for the class: The way we never were; Marriage, a history; and Not-so-nuclear families. Due dates for each book can be found in the agenda below. Analysis/evaluation papers should attempt, in 5-7 pages (double-spaced, 1 inch margins, 12 point font), to critically analyze (what does this book say about American families?) and evaluate (how does what this book says fit with other readings from the class, class discussions, and your own experience) the book. Please do not summarize the book. Write the analysis as if your reader has read the book (which I have). Support your points with specifics (giving page numbers when appropriate) from the book and/or other readings we have done. You may but are not required to use sources from outside the class.

Issue synthesis/evaluation paper: Each student is required to write an issue synthesis/evaluation paper over one issue covered in the course. This paper should. in 8-10 pages (double-spaced, 1 inch margins, 12 point font), synthesize all of the readings we have done on a particular issue (including texts, books, and supplemental readings), evaluate the credibility and stance of those readings, and suggest where communication can inform this issue. You are required to use sources (between three and five) from outside the class, but do not make this a full-fledged literature review on the topic. Some issues might be: marriage, parenting, mothers, fathers, class, race, values, divorce, media. Other issues covered in the class but not listed are acceptable as well. Remember you may use readings, outside literature, and class discussions for this paper.


Research paper with pilot data: A 12-15 page paper including: 1) a literature review (at least 7-10 recent journal sources) addressing a particular question relevant to family communication; 2) hypotheses for further exploring this question; 3) methods for testing the hypotheses; 4) data generated piloting those methods; 5) results of the pilot test; 6) discussion of the results including limitations and implications sections. Many social science methods are acceptable for this project - please meet with me before you proceed. If data can be gathered in conjunction with another student’s research project, then such collaborative effort is encouraged. See webpage for specifics regarding how to write a research paper.

Web page: Each student is also required to create and update a web page summarizing his/her book analysis/evaluations and issue synthesis paper. Each time a paper is due, your it should be summarized and added to your webpage the same day.

Help creating webpages. Help writing for the web (please don't post your papers!).


  1. Vangelisti, Anita L. (Editor) (2004). Handbook of Family Communication. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  2. Coontz, S. (2005). Marriage, a history: How love conquered marriage. London: Penguin Books.
  3. Coontz, S. (Editor) (2008). American Families: A multicultural reader. Second edition. New York: Routledge.
  4. Coontz, S. (1992). The way we never were: American families and the nostalgia trap. USA: Basic Books.
  5. Hansen, K.V. (2005). Not-so-nuclear families: Class, gender and networks of care. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Other interesting resources:

Indiana Magazine of History:

Article: Industrial Girls

Kids and Marital Satisfaction



Tentative Agenda

HFC - Handbook of Family Communication
AF - American Families: A Multicultural Reader


14 Orientation and HFC Chapter 1

21 Marriage: HFC Chapters 3 and 4:

28 Marriage, a history: Part I and II


4 Marriage, a history: Part III

11 Marriage, a history: Part IV and Conclusion

18 Parenting: HFC: 5, 13; AF 23, 25

25: The way we never were; Chapters 1- 6

Papers due for Marriage, a history


4 The way we never were; Chapters 7 - Epilogue

11 Spring Break

18 Family Structures: HFC: 8 (Lara), 10 (Chantel), 11 (Gavin): AF 9 (Chris), 14 (Amanda), 26 (Stasha)

Papers due for The way we never were

25 Race: AF 1 (Krystle), 2 (Amanda), 3 (Lara), 4, 29 (Jennifer)


1 Class: AF 10 (Christian), 16 (Holly), 22 (Christian), 24 (Holly)

8 Not-so-nuclear Part I Chapters 1 - 4 (Dixson) Chapter 5 (Candace)

15 Not-so-nuclear Part II Chapter 6 (Krystle); Chapter 7 (Dixson); Chapter 8 (John)

22 Values and Divorce: HFC 9 (Jennifer), AF 27 (Stasha), 28 (Gavin)

29 Family Communication Issues: HFC 19 (Bernadette), 20 (Candace), 24 (Chris), 27 (Bernadette); AF 12 (Chantel), 34 (John)

Papers due for Not-so-nuclear


6 6:15 - 8:15 Synthesis evaluation papers due