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The University of Southampton

SOCI3079 The Ties that Bind Us: Focusing on Families

Module Overview

The word ‘family’ is used unquestioningly as part of people’s everyday conversations with each other, as well as in political debates and professional practice such as health, education, childcare, social work and so on. Often in these and other contexts, it is asserted that families are not what they used to be. Family sociology, however, opens up assumptions about the nature of families and social shifts, to raise questions such as: What are families, who counts as family? Are parents and children today more like friends, and friends more like family? Should the state decide on how children are brought up? Why is family history so popular? This seminar-based module addresses these and other questions as part of the development of a sociological understanding of families and family life in contemporary society. It covers a set of connected topics that fall under the heading of family sociology, including: partnering and childbearing, daily living arrangements and decision-making, parenting and other forms of care, close relationships and their dynamics, kinship and community relationships, aspects of social policy, and global issues.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critical engagement with key sociological theories about the relationships between individuals, families and society
  • Application of knowledge of theoretical debates about families and family life to aspects of contemporary family life
  • Evaluation of claims about the nature of family change through applied study of relevant contemporary case studies
  • Development and articulation of views and arguments in seminar presentations, discussion and debate, through student-led individual, small group and whole seminar group contributions, and through written assignments


This module aims to develop your sociological understanding of families and family life in contemporary society through seminar-based discussion. The syllabus covers a range of key sociological theoretical issues, and specific relevant case study illustrations, concerning debates about what families are; the relationship between individuals, families and society; and the nature of contemporary family lifestyles and social relationships.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The unit is taught through weekly two-hour student-led seminars. These involve a combination of individual reading preparation and participation in wider group discussion, and small group preparation and presentation to the wider group, as appropriate to the topic under discussion. There are no lectures

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Jamieson, L., Simpson, R. and Lewis, R. (eds) (2012). Researching Families and Relationships. 

Chambers, D. (2012). A Sociology Family Life. 

Cheal, D. (2002). Sociology of Family Life. 

Ribbens McCarthy, J. and Edwards, R. (2011). Key Concepts in Family Studies. 

Ribbens McCarthy, J., Doolittle, M. and Day Sclater, S. (2012). Understanding Family Meanings. 


Assessment Strategy

Formal assessment takes place through two essay assignments and seminar participation


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment  (1000 words) 25%
Assignment  (2500 words) 65%
Attendance and engagement  ( hours) 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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