A Graduate Family Course Syllabus

I have been revising my Theoretical Perspectives on the Family syllabus (see the final product here). [Check out this post for tips on how to design your own interdisciplinary graduate seminars]  In a given week, I only want to assign about four readings. But, given that I have to cover theory and substantive topics each week, four readings is always too few. Further, I don’t want the students only reading work from psychology, but also from sociology and economics, and even from communication, public health, anthropology, and law when appropriate. My courses therefore end up being a lot of work for students, and a lot of work for me in design.

Two principles that informed my design:

First, I spoke with a student last year who was talking with me about race discrimination and overall racial ignorance in her graduate program. One example she gave me was that in her classes, diversity was either ignored all together or relegated to a specific week in the semester. This was insulting as race and diversity issues touch every issue, every week. With this in mind, I tried to incorporate readings about marginalized families every week.

Second, all readings must be accessible online. I will only assign a reading that is not online if I have access to a pdf that I can post to our course management system. I do not want to contribute to grad student debt if at all possible.

Here is a list of theories and topics that I cover each week, and the readings I chose to represent them.

Introduction to the course. What is a fact? Historical changes and the American family. An introduction to theory

Cherlin, A. (2009). Why it’s hard to know when a fact is a fact.

Continue reading

Welcome to Adventures in Human Development and Family Science!

I have been thinking about writing a blog for a while now.  But, with so many great blogs (Family Inequality, Pearls of Wisdom: The Blog, Professional Development, Sociological Images) I wasn’t sure what I could contribute. There are always things I would like to suggest – i.e. check out this great post on writing an introduction – but I can do that now that I am officially on twitter (Follow me: @ClaireKampDush).

In thinking about what I have to contribute, I finally think I *may* have found a hole in what is out there on the world wide web.  A blog dedicated to the trials and tribulations conducting interdisciplinary research – and specifically – interdisciplinary family and developmental research.  Many times when people ask what department I am in, they look confused. Actually, I am confused at this point.  For my first 6 years at Ohio State, I was in the Department of Human Development and Family Science (HDFS). We just recently went through a merger, and now I am in the Human Development and Family Science program in the Department of Human Sciences. Human Sciences is a broad (!) term we picked to describe our department that includes psychologists, demographers, sociologists, and economists in the HDFS program, economists, fashion designers, and hospitality managers in the Consumer Sciences Program, nutritionists from bench science to dietitians in the Nutrition program, and sports managers to exercise scientists in the Kinesiology program.  So, if anyone is prepared to blog from the trenches of interdisciplinary research, I think we members of the Department of Human Sciences are!

That said, I also believe I am uniquely qualified to blog about conducting interdisciplinary research. I worked with clinical psychologist Laurie Kramer and psychologist (though I never knew what his discipline was until I saw that he was in the APA on his CV) Joe Pleck at Illinois, clinical psychologist Cathy Cohan, developmental psychologist Karen Fingerman, and sociologist Paul Amato at Penn State, and economist Liz Peters at Cornell. Thus, individuals from several social science disciplines have contributed to my training. And, since being at Ohio State, my primary collaborators have been developmental psychologist Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, clinical psychologist Galena Rhoades, and sociologist Miles Taylor.

I am a member of the American Sociological Association,  Association for Psychological ScienceCouncil on Contemporary FamiliesInternational Association for Relationship ResearchNational Council on Family RelationsPopulation Association of America, and the Society for Research on Child Development. I review for journals in family studies, sociology, psychology, and demography.  All in all, I am inherently interdisciplinary, and I am passionately so. I always tell my graduate students that the most exciting research can grow from interdisciplinary thinking.  For instance, as a family demographer (note that demography is also an interdisciplinary field), psychologists often ask me if I am concerned that someone else is going to conduct my research idea in a secondary dataset.  For the most part, I have not found this to be a problem, as I find that I usually am asking different questions than those in the disciplines are because I am considering important factors from across them. It is not always easy to conduct interdisciplinary research, be in an interdisciplinary department, and have to constantly tell people what “HDFS” is and that no, I am not a therapist.  But, it can also feel really great!


I hope you enjoy my blog, and I hope to have something to share with you once a week.