Personal Life, Intimacy and the Family

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ursula Henz STC S100B


This course is available on the BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Sociology. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

The course provides an overview over the area of family sociology, drawing predominantly on literature about Britain and other Western societies. The course focuses on recent and ongoing transformations of family structure, family relationships and family life. Throughout the course various theoretical approaches will be considered. Issues related to gender, ethnicity and migration will be cross-cutting themes of the course. Indicative topics are: family structures and family relationships, childhood, adolescence, partnership formation, marriage, childlessness, motherhood, fatherhood, parenting, divorce, post-divorce families, family and work, family and education.


This course is delivered through a combination of workshops, seminars and online materials totalling a minimum of 40 hours across MT and LT, with 2 hours of classes in the ST.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6 and LT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students are required to complete two class presentations and two formative essays.

Indicative reading

  • Treas, Judith, Scott, Jacqueline & Richards, Martin (eds.) (2014) The Wiley Blackwell Companion to The Sociology of Families, Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell - covers many aspects of the course.

Other recommended readings include:

  • Beck, Ulrich & Beck-Gernsheim, Elisabeth (1995): The Normal Chaos of Love. London: Polity Press.
  • Chambers, Deborah (2012): A Sociology of Family Life. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Hochschild, Arlie (1990): The Second Shift. Working Parents and the Revolution at Home. London: Piatkus.
  • Lareau, Annette (2011): Unequal Childhoods. Class, Race and Family Life. University of California Press: Berkeley, Los Angeles, London.
  • Smart, Carol & Neale, Bren (1999): Family Fragments? Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Smart, Carol, Neale, Bren & Wade, Amanda (2001): The Changing Experience of Childhood: Families and Divorce. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Take-home assessment (50%) and research report (50%) in the ST.

An electronic copy of the research report, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the second Wednesday of Summer Term.

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills