Topical Questions: by tfGBNfa


                        Comprehensive Written Examination
                                  August 2007

General Instructions: At the top of each page, put your assigned two-digit ID
number for identification purposes (you will find this on the outside of the envelope).
Please number all pages. Please leave sufficient margin (1/2 inch) so that nothing
gets left off when we copy exams for reviewers. You have a total of 6 hours to
complete the examination. There are two 3-hour sessions. The morning session is
from 9:00 - 12:00 noon and the afternoon session is from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. Someone
will collect your materials - the exam, your answers, and all notes - at noon before
you leave for lunch. During the lunch break, do not discuss the exam with anyone
or consult notes or other sources. ALL materials will be returned to you when you
return to the examining room at 1:00 pm. You will turn in all materials at 4:00 pm.

Family Research Methods answer either question (1) or question (2):

   1. Longitudinal data has become more readily available and sophisticated techniques
      for analyzing these data are more accessible than they were twenty years ago.
      Choose one specific topic in family sociology and discuss how our knowledge in
      this area has been enhanced because of the availability of longitudinal data and
      methodological advancement in the field. For example, what do we know as a
      result of longitudinal research on your selected topic that we wouldn’t have
      known (or not known as well or completely) if the topic hadn’t been studied
      longitudinally? What conclusions that one might draw based on cross-sectional
      data are contradicted on the basis of longitudinal data?

   2. In some family sociology graduate programs courses on “methods in family
      research” are required. These courses often deal with both statistical and
      methodological issues. No such course is required in our program. Make an
      argument that such a course either should or should not be required of all Ph.D.’s
      who are claiming family sociology as a specialty area. Make certain to cite
      appropriate literature that bolsters your claim.

Family Theory: answer either question (3) or question (4):

   3. The family convergence theory (also known as the modernization theory of
      family) posits that economic development and education tends to undermine
      traditional values and instill modern ideology, and thus will lead to the demise of
      the extended family and rise of the nuclear family everywhere around the world.
      Discuss the usefulness of the theory as a conceptual framework and also its
      validity based on empirical literature.

   4. Introductory sociology texts typically present social interaction, conflict theory,
      and structural functionalism as the three foundational sociological explanations of
      social behavior. Using the family literature as an example, make an argument that
      introductory level texts are either justified in these claims or are not justified.
      Provide concrete examples from the family literature to bolster your argument.
      Remember to think broadly about the roots of family theory rather than providing
      too literal an interpretation of these perspectives.

Substantive Problems in Family Sociology: choose any (2) questions from questions

   5. Some critics have taken academic research on parenting to task because it has
      tended to focus on the contributions of mothers, often ignoring the multiple roles
      played by fathers. Some authors – Blankenhorn, for example – have even argued
      that fatherlessness is “our most urgent social problem”. What is your take on this
      issue? What motivations might these writers have for arguing for the importance
      of fathers? Do we, as family researchers, tend to ignore the contributions of
      fathers? Can we justify the relatively greater emphasis placed on the study of
      mothers by arguing that mothers have a substantially greater impact on child well-

   6. Cohabitation has become an important context for bearing and raising children in
      the United States. Births to unmarried cohabiting women have increased sharply
      over the years while births to married parents have declined. Discuss what can
      account for such demographic trends and the implications that these trends may
      have for children’s well being.

   7. There is a growing body of literature that suggests that the antecedents,
      consequences, and interpretation of family processes are contingent upon gender
      ideology. Cite at least three examples of family literature that demonstrates this
      contingency. What do the examples have in common? How do they differ?
      Based on your integration of this literature, where do you think these findings are
      leading us as a field? What further research needs to be done?

   8. One of the really “hot” topics of research in family sociology is that of the study
      of the division of household labor. Why does this topic draw so much attention?
      Is the division of household labor really that important to the study of families and
      intimate relationships, or are there other motives or reasons for studying it? You
      may want to consider political, ideological, theoretical, methodological, and other
      justifications for the importance of the study of the division of household labor for
      family sociology.

To top