missing image


Quick Links

Course Materials

Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be introduced to the main theoretical frameworks used in the family sciences. An early unit in the course will cover and introduce students to the major theories that help us understand family systems. After focusing on these theories for several lectures, the course materials will then reference these theories throughout the course as we learn about various components of families and how they interact. Students will also be asked in one of their major papers for the class to analyze your own family. This will help students gain a better appreciation for how the concepts from class might help them interpret their own family.
  2. Students will learn how researchers uniquely study families and family systems. In addition to just learning about what scholars know about families, we will also study how scholars study families. Family scientists employ unique research methods to study family interactions and patterns. As a part of this course students will be introduced to the basics behind how we study the family unit.
  3. Students will gain an understanding of the basic terms, concepts, and ideas used to describe family systems. Although terms such as rituals, communication, and problem-solving are likely familiar to students, throughout the course we will learn how these concepts are utilized and understood in the family sciences. Understanding these terms and concepts will help students both analyze family units and give students a strong base from which to grow their understanding of family systems in future coursework.
  4. Students will learn to apply family systems ideas and concepts to their own families, past and future, in order to learn how they might improve their own family well-being. Both the assignments and lectures from the course will give students opportunities to apply what they are learning to themselves in terms of where they have been and where they are going. Discussion questions, activities, and assignments will challenge students to critically analyze their family, past and future, and to understand their own personal strengths and weaknesses in regard to family life.
  5. Students will improve their writing skills. This course has an emphasis on writing and, as such, is designed to help students improve their academic writing skills. Through the reflective writing assignments due throughout the course, I hope students emerge from this class more confident in their writing proficiency and more capable of delivering strong, clear writing.

Course Materials

David H. Olson, John DeFrain, and Linda Skogrand. Marriage and Families: Intimacy, Diversity, and Strengths, 8th edition. McGraw-Hill Education, 2014.

(Back to top)


Assignment 1: Family Interview Assignment

This writing assignment tasks you with understanding the strengths and weaknesses you bring with you from your family background. You will interview a family member and then write about the experience. Your finished paper will include a three-page, single-spaced summary of an interview you completed with either a parent or grandparent (you will complete an interview worksheet for this part of the assignment).

Assignment 2: Family Sculpture Assignment

For this assignment, you will construct several family sculptures and write about the strengths and weaknesses that you see due to your family background.

This assignment will have two parts. First, you will construct three family sculptures: one for the families of each of your parents and one for your own family when each person was ten years old (you will be given specific instructions on how to draw a family sculpture).

Next, you will create two short write-ups: a two-page, double-spaced summary of the strengths of your family of origin based on the family sculptures, and a two-page, double-spaced summary of the weaknesses of your family of origin based on the family sculptures.

Assignment 3: Family Theory Analysis Paper

You will study several major family science theories during the course. For this assignment, you will write a five-page, double-spaced paper in which you analyze a family from a television show through the lens of one of the three major theories you learn about in class. You must reference at least 10 ideas and terms from each theory and bold them in your paper the first time you use them. Your analysis should include discussion of how the theory would identify both strengths and weaknesses in your current family.

Assignment 4: Family Symbolism Assignment

Several times in the course, you will learn how symbolism within families is an important component of family process. For this assignment, you will think about how your family might be represented in a symbolic way.

The first part of the assignment is to create a “family flag” that symbolizes your family and then write about the symbols involved. You may design this flag in any way you wish (such as using graphic software or drawing the flag by hand and scanning a copy), but it must include the following elements:

This flag should collectively represent your family and be unique to the experiences that you had growing up. You will not get bonus points for unusual creativity in media or execution, and you will not be graded on your artistic ability. However, you should make sure your flag is neat and professional looking. 

For the second part of the assignment, you will write a three-page, double-spaced paper briefly describing the five symbols you picked. This write-up should focus on the symbolic nature of the objects you use, not just describing the symbols, but explaining the deeper meaning behind them. 

Assignment 5: Family Process Self-Analysis

For the final assignment of the class, you will submit a six-page, double-spaced paper that is essentially a self-analysis of your current family process utilizing the concepts from the course. This assignment serves as evidence that you can apply the material from the course to a real situation. You will select four from a list of ten topics that we have covered in the course. You will use the course materials from those four areas to build an analysis of both the positive and negative elements of their family process.

Reading Quizzes

In addition to the two exams, you will complete three online quizzes based on the reading material from the textbook. These quizzes consist of approximately 15 multiple-choice questions (worth 2 points each). These quizzes help you prepare for the exams—so you should take them without referring to your texbook or course materials. You will have a time limit of 20 minutes to complete each one, so be sure you have thoroughly read the material before you begin.

(Back to top)


There will be two exams for the class, a midcourse and a final. The final exam is comprehensive, and includes elements from the entire course (roughly 75% new material and 25% old material). Both exams are comprised of multiple choice, true-false, matching, fill-in-the-blank, and short essay questions. The final is only available to be taken in a paper format. Please plan for shipping time.

(Back to top)


The points from the assignments and exams make up your course grade.

Assignments Points
Family Interview Assignment 30
Family Sculpture Assignment 50
Family Theory Analysis Paper 75
Family Symbolism Assignment 50
Family Process Self-Analysis Assignment 100
Midcourse Exam 100
Final Exam 100
3 Reading Quizzes 90
Total Points 595

Grading Scale

Your letter grade will be determined using these percentages:

A 94–100
A− 90–93
B+ 87–89
B 84–86
B− 80–83
C+ 77–79
C 74–76
C− 70–73
D+ 67–69
D 64–66
D− 60–63
E (fail) 59 and lower

(Back to top)


As a part of the Honor Code, all students are expected to do their own work and not copy or plagiarize from other sources. When you write down an idea from someone else, you need to cite that person. Students who are caught plagiarizing will receive a 0 for that paper assignment. This policy will hold even if the plagiarizing was unintentional. Students who are found to have intentionally copied or are found to have plagiarized multiple times will receive an E in the course and be reported to the proper university office. If you have any questions or concerns regarding how to properly cite sources please contact me. Students are referred to the BYU Academic Honesty Policy for specific examples of plagiarism.

Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

(Back to top)

University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at t9coordinator@byu.edu or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at https://titleix.byu.edu/report or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at http://titleix.byu.edu or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

(Back to top)

Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

(Back to top)