Back to home page

FAM 401: Normal Family Development and Processes

Fall 1999


A. O’Malley, Ph.D.   Office 305a Funkhouser

FB B13    Office Hours: M 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
W 2:00-4:30 p.m.    TR 3:45 – 4:30 p.m.

     F  1:00 – 2:00 p.m.


Tel. 257-1648   Fax 224-0379


Teaching Assistant: Ian Feinauer  Research Center for Families and Children

Office Hours: T 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.  EH 107 257-8900


Course Description: 


An examination of normal family development processes from a family system’s perspective that will include (a) the predominant models of family functioning; 

(b) emerging family forms, and (c) the social and developmental contexts of contemporary families. Emphasis will be on examining beliefs about family normality and developing a framework from which to work with families.




 Vail, A. (1998). Taking sides: Clashing views on controversial issues in family and personal relationships, fourth edition. Guilford, Connecticut: Dushkin/McGraw-Hill.


 Walsh, F. (Ed.). (1993). Normal family processes, second edition. New York: Guilford Press.


Course Objectives:


- To conceptualize normal family processes, clarifying different perspectives on the

 definition of family normality.


- To describe families from a socio-historical perspective – including common myths

 about the normal family and changing family norms.


- To describe the predominant models of normal family function and dysfunction that

 guide practitioners’ work with families.


- To describe research findings on normal family processes.


- To describe the diverse patterns of family functioning associated with emerging

 family structures and their unique challenges.


- To describe the diversity of family functioning as it relates to the varying sociocultural 

 contexts of today’s families.


- To describe the impact of recent social policy on contemporary families.


Instructional/Learning Process:


The course format will be lecture-discussion. Class exercises and discussions will be important components of the learning process.


Reasonable accommodations: If you have a special need that may require an accommodation or assistance, please inform the instructor of that fact as soon as possible and no later than September 8.


Course Requirements:


1. Class attendance and participation: Attendance is an essential ingredient of class

participation. Each student is expected to attend all class sessions and to participate

  in class discussions and exercises.


 Religious Holidays: Students are entitled to an excused absence for the purpose of 

 observing major religious holidays. However, the instructor must be notified in

 writing by September 8.


2. Reading as assigned throughout the semester. It is expected that students will have

  completed assignments prior to each class session. This is essential since class

 exercises will be based upon reading assignments.


3. Papers: Each student will analyze a family twice – using a different model each time or two families – using the same model. 


4. Genogram: Each student will construct a genogram depicting his/her family or a 

 family of choice (to be approved by instructor).


5. Class Presentation: Taking Sides


6. Exams: There will be three exams (covering all course materials and activities). 

 Exams must be written with blue or black ink or sharpened pencil in blue examination

 books. Make-up exams will only be given in the case of documented excused

 absences. Make-up exams may differ in format from exams given during regularly

 scheduled exam times.


** All assignments will be thoroughly explained during class sessions. If you miss the

 explanation for an assignment due to an absence, you are responsible to get the

 information from a classmate.


** All assignments must be typed or word processed and prepared according to APA

 guidelines. Handwritten/hand typed papers will not be read by the instructor or

 teaching assistant.


** Late papers will not be accepted (except in cases of documented excused absence).

 Papers must be turned in within the first five minutes of class.




The final grade for the course will reflect class participation (class exercises and attendance are components of participation) as well as the scores earned on papers and exams. Students are required to complete the genogram, all papers, the class presentation, and all exams in order to earn a grade of “C” or better for the course.


Points will be assigned in the following manner:

 Exam 1………………………75 points

 Exam 2 ……………………...75

  Exam 3………………………75

 Class Participation…………..50

 Papers (Fam. Analysis) ……. 50 (25 pts. each)

 Class Presentation…………. 25

 Genogram…………………. 75

 Total………………………. 425


Upon completion of all course requirements, grades will be calculated according to the following scale:

383 – 425 = A 

340 - 382 = B

298 - 339 = C

 255 – 297 = D

  0 – 254 = E


Academic Standards: 


All members of the academic community are expected to produce their own scholastic work. When using outside sources, students are to give credit for ideas and information taken from others. The minimum penalty for cheating and plagiarism is an “E” in the course.


Tentative Course Schedule


Date   Topic    Assignment


Sept. 1   Intro to Course  Syllabus

   What is Family to Me?


Sept. 8   Normal Family Processes  Chapter 1

   Selection of Issue and Position


Sept. 15   Models of Family Functioning Chapter 2

   Genogram: Family Structure  Family Info.      

Sept. 22   The Circumplex Model  Chapter 3


September 29   The McMaster Model  Chapters 4, 5

   Genetic Model


October 6   Exam 1


Oct. 13    The Dual-Earner Family  Chapter 6

      Issue 1,6,7

Oct. 20    Divorce and Family Life  Chapter 7

   Family Analysis Paper 1 due Issues 13,14, 4


Oct. 27    Binuclear Families   Chapter 8

      Issue 5


Nov. 3   Adoptive Families   Chapters 9, 10

   Lesbian and Gay Families  Issues 3, 12

   Family Analysis Paper 2 due


Nov. 10   Exam 2


Nov. 17   Cultural Diversity, Race,  Ch. 11,12

   And Class


November 24   Field Assignment: Genograms


Dec. 1   Illness and Disability   Ch. 15

   Genogram due at beginning of class


Dec. 8   The Changing Family Life Cycle Ch. 14 and 16

Family Policy    Issues 16, 



Friday, Dec. 17, 8:00 a.m.  Exam 3