The Importance of Marriage
SO302 CORE ASSESSMENT
Pick one aspect of the modern family, its structure, function, or place in the larger society and culture. Some possible topics include: the importance of marriage, gender roles, the place of children in the family, sexuality and the bearing of children, single parent families, the employment of parents with children, differences between families of an ethnic minority and white families, the acceptance of gay and lesbian families or other alternative forms, or media representations of the family. You should feel free to choose another relevant focus for your essay, but no matter what your choice, you should have it approved by your instructor before you begin in earnest.
Find scholarly or official domestic data that identify the prevalence, variation, and trends in your focus issue over the past few decades. Is there a “cultural inconsistency” between what is actually happening and what we perceive? You should also find at least one contemporary international point of comparison. Again, is the actual similarity or difference accurately represented in our common perceptions? One good place to start is the US Federal statistics gateway site: www.fedstats.gov; the UN, www.un.org, and the World Bank, www.worldbank.org, are two additional good sources for international data; the largest clearinghouse for publicly available academic and organizational data is the ICPSR at the University of Michigan, www.icpsr.umich.edu; and the University of Chicago’s NORC is one of the largest academic opinion research centers in the country, norc.uchicago.edu. Consider multiple sources of data, when possible, and compare and contrast the actual data with public perception of the issue. Pay particular attention to the trends in the data and use sociological concepts and findings from the course and your additional literature review to analyze your issue. Over time, what about these families has changed or remained the same? Why?
Evaluate the individual and social dynamics and consequences of your topic at the family and the social levels. Explain and analyze how larger social trends affect individual family lives. Try to understand and explain why some families, who share many characteristics with those of your focus, do not exhibit the same properties. Is this phenomenon having positive or negative (or both) effects on families and the society? Why? How? According to what standard? Analyze and critique examples of partisan positions on either side of the public debate over this issue, and identify and evaluate your own biases in the matter. How can the relevant facts, theories, and research help you determine who is more likely to be right?
Finally, what trend do you think we are likely to see in this issue over the next two decades, both domestically and in your international comparison location? Defend and justify your conclusions. What public policies and individual decisions would help guide this future trend in the most generally useful and beneficial direction? Defend and justify your conclusions.