Course Syllabus

Course Description

This course will take an in-depth look at various family theories, including the following:

  • Systems theory
  • Social Exchange theory
  • Family development theory
  • Symbolic interactionism

It will be exploring some of the assumptions associated with each one.

Through the lens of each theory's unique perspective, it will examine family processes, such as those related to the following:

  • Power.
  • Communication.
  • Dysfunctions and addictions.
  • Rules and patterns of interaction.
  • Distance regulation.
  • Family rituals.

Understanding the perspective and strengths of each theory will bring insight into how to develop intervention and prevention programs to help families in crisis.

Purpose of the Class

FAML 400 will help students gain a clearer understanding of the purpose and power of theories as they provide insight into marriage and family life. As students learn to evaluate both the strengths and challenges of these theoretical perspectives, they will also learn how to actually use those theories to improve various aspects of marriage and family dynamics.

Course Outcomes

  1. Differentiate between the following three philosophies of science:
    • Positivism
    • Interpretive
    • Conflict
  2. Discuss the nature and development of theory, such as the following:
    • Assumptions/tenets
    • Concepts, propositions
    • Theory construction
    • The components of a theory
    • The importance of historical context in theory development.
  3. Understand the relationship between theory and research.
  4. Understand the main content and concepts of the following theories:
    • Family development theory
    • Social Exchange theory
    • Symbolic interactionism theory
    • Structural functionalism theory
    • Family systems theory
    • Conflict theory
    • Feminist theory
  5. Identify the strengths and/or deficiencies of each theory's ability to explain family dynamics.
  6. Describe key elements of family dynamics across a range of family issues, such as:
    • Communication
    • The addicted family
    • Family violence
    • Families with teens
  7. Be able to use appropriate theoretical perspectives to address those family dynamics.



This course is only open to juniors and seniors. If you are an underclassman (fewer than 5 semesters), please contact the instructor and consider taking this course at another time.

Required Materials

The textbook in the table below is required for this course.

Resource Title and Description
(books, software, etc.)
Author or Provider Ed./Vol. 13-Digit ISBN (if applicable)
Exploring Family Theories Smith, Suzanne R.; Hamon, Raeann R. 4th 978-0190297268
  • Additional reading materials will be provided in the course.

This eBook, Exploring Family Theories, is delivered through VitalSource and is accessible the first day of the term. Your student financial account will be charged automatically on the first day of class. Access the textbook using the Course Materials link provided in the course menu. 

Opting Out of the eBook

If you have already ordered the print textbook, you may opt out in order to receive a refund. You must opt out by the current term’s Drop Date to receive a refund. When you opt out, you will lose access to the Auto Access eBook.

To opt out:

  1. Go to your Booklist.
  2. On your Booklist, select the red Remove Me from Content button for the item you no longer want access to.
    • Please note that some classes do not allow you to cancel the material because it is not available outside of BYU-Idaho and is required to complete the course.
  3. If you later decide you need the Auto Access materials, you can go back to your Booklist and select the green Add Me to Content button.
    • Your student account will be charged automatically.

Webcam and Microphone

You will need access to a webcam and microphone for the three exams.

Course Architecture

Regular and sustained attention to the course is critical in an online course. Students will need to be attentive to the following:

  • Reading assignments.
  • Course activities.
  • Supplemental resources.
  • Deadlines.

This course is organized into modules, each addressing a different theory. Some modules last one week, while others are several weeks long. Week 01: Course Introduction will help orient students to the course and give them time to practice using the online tools. Students finish the course in the Week 14: Conclusion by submitting their final assignments and assessments.

Weekly Activities and Due Dates

  • Each week opens early in order to accommodate students who need more flexibility in their schedules.
  • Each week has two main due dates:
    • Midweek
      • Weekly Introduction
      • Complete Preparation Learning Materials, which may include the following:
        • Readings.
        • Videos.
        • Interactive Graphics.
      • Weekly Quiz
      • Study Group (required in Weeks 06, 11, and 14; optional in other weeks)
      • Class responses to video presentations posted about theories covered that week.
    • End of the Week
      • Submit Student Video Presentations
        • Each student will submit one presentation with a partner during the semester.
        • NOTE: When it is a student's turn to submit their video presentation, the deadline is critical. The rest of the class needs that student's video to complete their assignment the following week.
      • Finish all other activities, which may include the following:
        • Discuss with a Friend.
        • Application Exercises.
        • Discussion Boards.
        • Theory Application Paper.
        • Weekly Reports.
        • Exams.

Note on Course Architecture

Course activities have been labeled with the following designations:

  • Introduction.
  • Preparation.
  • Apply.
  • Share.
  • Ponder & Prove.

These descriptions help indicate the flow and order of each week's assignments as students work to complete the activities. Understanding the role each activity plays in a student's mastery of the course content will help ensure they complete all of the assignments on time.

Even though this course is online, it is not an independent study course. Students will be expected to interact with classmates and others in order to teach them about what they are learning by participation, especially in the Teach One Another activities. Teach One Another activities can provide some of the most powerful experiences in the course if students put their best effort into them.

This online course is designed to give students significant exposure to the course content. In order to do well, students should expect to spend 34 hours weekly for every credit earned. Therefore, students will need to be able to commit 912 hours each week to this course. If a student is unable to commit to the time demands this semester, they are urged to consider taking the class some other time when they can commit the necessary time to the workload.

Course Activities

Due Midweek

Preparation Learning Materials: The nature of this course's subject matter can sometimes be intellectually challenging. Although the concepts of each theory are not inherently difficult, in order to apply the theory, students will need to spend time doing the following:

  • Reviewing the weekly preparation materials.
  • Reflecting on the assigned readings.
  • Viewing any supplemental materials.
  • Becoming prepared for a reading quiz.

Weekly Quiz: This quiz will help students focus on the most important information from the preparation materials. The tests consist of the following:

  • Multiple-choice questions.
  • Essay or short answer questions.

Additional videos and PowerPoints: Many weeks have supplemental videos or PowerPoint presentations. They are in the course to help students grasp key concepts. Although some of these resources do not require students to take a quiz or turn in an assignment, students will not do well on the unit exams without understanding their material, so they must study and understand the additional resources carefully.

Student Video Response Discussion Board: Each week (beginning in Week 04), students will respond to two student presentations that will be posted by the end of the previous week. They will discuss the presentations with others and do the following:

  • Give feedback by pointing out the strengths of the presentation.
  • Ask follow-up questions.
  • Suggest how the presentations might be improved.

Due End of the Week

Student Video Presentations: Students will be working with a partner to prepare one video-based learning experience for the class sometime during the semester. Find good video clips that exemplify some of the principles and processes of the theory or topic being taught. The video presentations should not exceed 10 minutes and are usually better if they are shorter. The student and their partner (who will sign up in the first few weeks of the course) should discuss how the video explicates the principles and processes of the theory. Take time to look at or explain several parts of the theory, not just one or two.

The presentation will be graded on the following criteria:

  • Video production
    • The video is posted on time.
    • The presentation is clear and concise (easily understood).
  • Video content
    • The presentation uses appropriate examples.
    • The presentation clearly explains how those examples relate to the theory or concepts being addressed.

The presentation must be posted for the class to view while the topic is being studied. The classmates will need the video to complete their own assignments, so the video link must be posted on time.

Discuss with a Friend: Each week, students will need to spend some time discussing what they are learning with others both inside and outside of class. Teaching someone else will help students understand the course content better and remember the information longer. It is also an opportunity to help others by improving their understanding of family and marriage dynamics. Students should take advantage of this powerful learning strategy and begin now to think of friends who might share what they are learning.

Application Exercises: These exercises vary from week to week. Some examples of application exercises include case studies, discussion boards, and theory application papers. Each exercise is designed to help students understand the material and give them the opportunity to apply what they are learning to explain the behaviors of individuals and families. If there are concepts students need help with, they are urged to get clarification by discussing the material with others rather than continue in confusion.

Weekly Report: This short report will allow students to give important feedback about what they are doing each week and how they are completing the assignments. Because the reports are a summary of what they have done throughout the week, they will not open until Midweek of the week that they are due. 

Examinations: There are three exams.

  • The first two examinations will include only the material you have studied in that unit.
  • The final examination will be a comprehensive exam.

Proctored Exams and Assessments

This course will use an online proctoring software called Proctorio. This makes it possible for students to take assessments and exams without a human proctor present. Proctored exams can be accessed like any other exam once the software has been installed. Exams will be recorded by Proctorio and reviewed by the BYUI Testing Center. Any questionable exams will be forwarded to the instructor for further review.

For step-by-step instructions on Proctorio installation, please refer to this help guide article.


Grading Policies

The final grade will be based on participation, as well as mastery of all the assignments and assessments throughout the semester.

Final Grade Breakdown

Grading Scale
A 100% – 93%
A- < 93% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 87%
B < 87% – 83%
B- < 83% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 77%
C < 77% – 73%
C- < 73% – 70%
D+ < 70% – 67%
D < 67% – 63%
D- < 63% – 60%
F < 60% – 0%

Grading Summary

  • Most class activities: 520 points each
  • Exams: 50 points each
  • Reading quizzes: 10 points each
  • Theory Application Paper: 20 points

Teaching Assistant

A teaching assistant (TA) will be assisting the instructor in this class.

Class Policies

Reporting Questions, Problems, or Concerns

This course has an Announcements page where the instructor will communicate with the students and where students can also post general questions, problems, or concerns.

Posting will inform the instructor, class members, and others monitoring the course of any issues, allowing the proper people to correct them. Students are urged to use this board to communicate with the instructor. If a student is experiencing the same problem as another student who has posted, they can post as well so others know the seriousness of the problem. If a student knows the answer to a problem, they may post solutions. Students helping to solve their classmates' problems is another way to teach one another. Additionally, the instructor will use this board to communicate with the class, including informing them of fixes and solutions. Check back often to learn of any changes to the course.

NOTE: Email the instructor directly if the problem is of a personal nature or if the instructor informs the class that is the way they would like to be made aware of questions, problems, or concerns.

Late Work Policy

Assignments are due on the day indicated. Work that is late hampers a student's ability to fully participate in the course and will be accepted only at the instructor's discretion. No late work will be accepted without first obtaining permission from the instructor. Late work will only be accepted for a medical or family emergency. Inform the instructor before the assignment is due. Any late work that is accepted is subject to a penalty as determined by the instructor.

Program Statement for Marriage and Family Studies

March 2021

As the world is becoming more diverse in its values and perspectives on marriage and the family, it becomes increasingly important that students and faculty understand our mission as a major in Marriage and Family Studies at BYU-Idaho. Consistent with the University, our mission is to prepare family life professionals to strengthen families throughout the world as true disciples of Jesus Christ, as outlined in the doctrines and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Regardless of current or future philosophies or practices related to the family unit, the major of Marriage and Family Studies at BYU-Idaho is built upon The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Although this program will explore a variety of views and perspectives on the family, and each student is entitled to his or her own beliefs, it will emphasize research and theory and be guided by eternal truths as taught by the Lord’s prophets. In short, our major strives to follow the admonition from President Dallin H. Oaks that “every generation has its tests and its chance to stand and prove itself. I believe our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of those tests for this generation. I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.” (from “The Plan and the Proclamation,” October 2017 General Conference)

Department Policy Regarding Intellectual Property and Course Materials

All of the materials in this course are covered by fair use and copyright law and are proprietary (intellectual property). Students are not permitted to sell, post, trade, share, distribute, or send any information contained in this course (including outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, PowerPoint presentations, lectures, audio, video recordings, images of the same, etc., including your own work for this course) to any parties outside of this course (i.e., Course Hero, Quizlet, Google Docs, etc.) by any means without the expressed written permission from the creator of these works and the department chair. Any of these actions violate the Academic Honesty Policies of Brigham Young University-Idaho and will be dealt with as such.

The materials in this course are also intellectual property, and taking any materials from the course and posting them outside of this course in any manner will be construed as theft and distribution of intellectual property. If you engage in any of these actions or use any of these materials without authorization, the instructor has the right to impose an appropriate academic sanction (for example, give you a failing grade for the assignment or fail you from the course). Additionally, the respective Course Lead, Program Lead, or department chair also reserve the right to impose appropriate academic sanctions regardless of any imposed by the instructor.

University Policies

Students with Disabilities

Brigham Young University-Idaho is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere that accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have a disability and require accommodations, please contact the Disability Services Office at (208) 496-9210 or visit their website and follow the Steps for Receiving Accommodations. Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with students and instructors by the Disability Services Office.

This course requires synchronous meetings. If you are currently registered with the Disability Services Office and need an interpreter or transcriber for these meetings, please contact the deaf and hard of hearing coordinator at (208) 496-9219.

Other University Policies

Student Honor and Other Policies

Using artificial intelligence technologies to help or do your work as a student is not allowed in this class. The list of AI tools is too long to list all of them. Just know that you are not allowed to use them for anything that you submit for grading.

Please read through the document called University Policies. It gives important information about the following topics:

  • Student Honor
    • Academic Honesty
    • Student Conduct
      • Sexual Harassment
    • Student with Disabilities
    • Complaints and Grievances
    • Copyright Notice

Go to the Student Resources module to review further resources and information.


The instructor reserves the right to change any part of this syllabus any time during the semester in order to adapt to changing course needs. Students will be notified prior to any changes that may take place, so they must pay attention to communication from the instructor.


Course Summary:

Date Details Due