Sociology of the Family

Discipline: Sociology
Instructor: Pugh
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1550
End: 1710
Field Work: Day 1 - Monday, 20 October | Spain Download Syllabus

Families are under siege, although not all of them for the same reasons.  The fragile bonds that hold families together are buffeted by time demands at the workplace, the struggle to make it in the market economy, growing inequality and the distortions and social divisions that it produces, even the challenge of trust when forging relationships amidst increasing instability.  While these social forces are worldwide, their influence varies widely in different contexts.  In this class, we’ll consider competing explanations for what makes families spin apart, and throughout the course we will also look at different ways people are trying to remake families, finding alternative ways of caring and providing for each other.  At the end of this class, you should be able to think critically about where families have been and where they are going.   This class is a collaborative exercise, in which what you get out of it reflects what you put into it. Students will take responsibility for their own learning, ask questions, challenge assumptions, and participate actively.

Field Work

Country: Spain
Day: 1 - Monday, 20 October

Throughout the developed world, young adults are increasingly living at home with their families of origin, in what have been called “accordion families.”  This trend is particularly acute in Spain, where 60 percent of 30-year-olds live with their natal families, contributing to Spain’s extremely low fertility rate.   While cultural factors undoubtedly contribute to this trend, difficult economic times only exacerbate the challenges that first-time home-buyers face in breaking into the Spanish housing market. Yet are single-family homes the best option for family life? Critics argue that single-family homes can be isolating, foster consumer spending and create the need for increased parental work hours. Various forms of alternative communities have sprung up in response to these critiques, including “co-housing,” in which residents retain separate incomes and houses but share occasional meals, a large community lodge, and consensus decision-making. In this field lab, we will visit the offices of Sostrecivic, a non-governmental organization dedicated to reforming the financial models behind Spanish housing practices, and enabling various forms of alternative housing communities.  We will hear from Raul Robert, Sostrecivic’s award-winning founder, and we will visit two of the organization’s projects, including a co-housing community. Assignment:  Students will record their observations of Sostrecivic’s efforts, and their implications for family life, in a concise 2-3 page reflection graded on a check plus/minus basis.  Guidelines will be posted. Academic Objectives

  1. Reflect upon the ways in which the organization of housing shapes childhoods, families and community life;
  2. Reflect upon the intertwining roles of cultural, demographic, and economic factors in producing Spain’s accordion families;
  3. Observe how one social entrepreneur is trying to change his world for the better: to reform Spanish housing;
  4. Consider the pros and cons of one particular form of alternative housing: co-housing;
  5. Evaluate the impact of Sostrecivic’s efforts and their implications for family life.