Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

Family Studies
(Social work and family studies)

Chair, 2008-09: Mary Carlsen, social policy, professional ethics, culturally competent practice

Faculty, 2008-09: Sharon Powell, family relationships, human sexuality

As the well-being of individuals and families has become a national concern, the “family” as a focus for a discipline in higher education has increased in significance. Since many disciplines contribute to the understanding of families, family studies is an integrative field which synthesizes knowledge from liberal arts disciplines, particularly biology, psychology, sociology, and political science, as well as others.

Family Studies offers a major to students through the class of 2011. Beginning with the class of 2012 students will have the opportunity for a concentration in Family Studies; the Family Studies major will end with the class of 2011.


The family studies major provides academic linkages across disciplines based in the liberal arts. The major supports the college’s emphases on cross-cultural and experiential learning. In preparation for graduate level work and professional career opportunities, a research course assists students to evaluate and critique research. The core courses introduce students to the field of family studies and explore issues, strengths, and roles within the family life span and the varied dimensions of human sexuality and interpersonal experience. Lastly, students explore special topics which focus on the explanation of research and the connections between various disciplines in the study of families.


REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR (only available to classes of 2009-2011)
Prerequisite courses (to be taken prior to Family Studies 232):

Sociology 121 or 260 and Psychology 125

Recommended courses:

Biology 123 or 243; Statistics 110 or 212. Students majoring in family studies will take ten courses in addition to the prerequisites:

  1. Introductory Course: Family Studies 232
  2. Core Courses: Family Studies 242, Family Studies 253, and Family Studies 391
  3. Cross-Cultural Course. Choose one from:
      • On-Campus Options: Psychology 226; Psychology 249; Sociology/Anthropology 128, 236, 239, 242, 249, 261
      • Off-Campus Options: Family Studies 263; Social Work 256
      • Other Options: Another course as approved in writing by family studies faculty or department chair

  4. Experiential course or preapproved alternative:
      • Academic Internship: Family Studies 294, Social Work 294, Psychology 294, or
      • A plan that is not offered as a course but is approved by family studies faculty or department chair
  5. Research (one course): Social Work 274 or Psychology 231
  6. Interdisciplinary Electives (three courses): Choose any three from the following areas.
    1. Human Development: Biology 123; Psychology 241, 264; Sociology/Anthropology 248, Family Studies 130

      Public Policy: Political Science 111, 246, 247, 270; Social Work 221, 258

      Social Problems: Sociology/Anthropology 242, 262, 263, 264

130 Families in Film and Literature

This course introduces students to family studies using selected depictions in film and literature as models. Students learn about family functioning and the dynamics that occur inside families that result from outside influences, such as economic and political environments and natural events. Offered during Interim.

232 Introduction to Family Studies

Students examine American families through the life cycle in relation to personal and professional life, with the major emphasis on communication and commitment in interpersonal relationships. Students study courtship, marriage, adjustment to parenthood, and examine stressors that affect families such as family violence, divorce, grief and loss, socioeconomic issues. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach; students have opportunity for a broad range of individualized study.

242 Family Relationships

In this course, students study the contemporary American family as it meets the challenge of a changing social world. The primary objective is to enlarge both personal and intellectual understanding of the complex issues facing families. Students study family dynamics and literature on different family roles (mothering, fathering, grandparents, siblings). Using the range of behavioral sciences concerned with family life, students study the interaction of individuals within families and of families within society.

253 Human Sexuality

This course explores the varied dimensions of human sexuality as they relate to, affect and are affected by past and present human relationships. Sexual problems and issues are re-examined for the development of personal value framework and for the enrichment of family life. The course emphasizes critical thinking skills applied to current issues in human sexuality (e.g. gay marriage, gender issues, sexual violence). Students examine issues in contemporary research and ethics in sexuality.

263 Indigenous Cultures of Australia

This course focuses on the diversity of culture and experience in Australia society. Students will learn about the experience of Aboriginal families from a variety of social science perspectives drawing on comparisons between Australia and the United States in terms of relationships between indigenous people and the majority population.

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CONCENTRATION (beginning with the class of 2012)

Recommended preparation: courses in social science, biology and statistics

Required Department courses (all 3):

  1. Family Studies 232: Introduction to Family Studies
  2. Family Studies 242: Family Relationships
  3. Family Studies 391: Senior Seminar

These required courses provide a core of knowledge in the discipline that is essential to thinking systematically about family systems and their interactions with society.

Possible electives (choose 2):

  1. FS 130: Families in Film and Literature
  2. FS 253: Human Sexuality
  3. Econ 116: Families, Consumers, Communities
  4. Nurs 130: Family Violence
  5. Psych 241: Developmental Psychology
  6. Poli Sci 270: Family Values
  7. Soc/Anth 248: Sociology of Dying, Death and Bereavement
  8. Soc/Anth 260: Marriage and the Family
  9. SW 221: Social Work and Social Welfare
  10. SW 274: Evaluation of Practice and Programs

These courses allow students to tailor their further knowledge in the discipline to fit a specific application area or to integrate with their major program. Elective courses not on this list may be counted with approval of the Department Chair.

Interdisciplinary coursework

At least one course for the concentration must come from outside the Department of Social Work and Family Studies

Senior capstone experience

This requirement is an academic, credit-bearing experience for seniors. It must be overseen by a St. Olaf faculty member and approved by the Department Chair of Social Work and Family Studies prior to enrollment in the experience. It may be met in several ways:

  1. by a senior year experience (course, independent study, practicum, etc.) in another major (e.g. Psychology, Soc/Anth, pre-med or Women's Studies), as long as the experience focuses on work with families
  2. by credit-bearing experiential learning focused on families (e.g. a half or full credit internship, social work practicum, or nursing clinical)
  3. by a senior-level, credit-bearing independent study or independent research project on family