FAML 400 - Family Theories & Dynamics

Course Description

This course will take an in-depth look at various family theories, including systems theory, exchange theory, family development theory, symbolic interactionism, and others, and explore some of the assumptions associated with each one. It will examine family processes such as those related to power, communication, dysfunctions and addictions, rules and patterns of interaction, distance regulation, and family rituals through the lens of each theory's unique perspective. 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

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


You will need to have a junior or senior status.

Course Outcomes

  1. Differentiate between the following three philosophies of science:
    • positivism,
    • interpretive, and
    • conflict.
  2. Discuss the nature and development of theory, including:
    • assumptions/tenets,
    • concepts, propositions,
    • theory construction,
    • the components of a theory, and
    • 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
    • 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,
    • etc.
  7. Be able to use appropriate theoretical perspectives to address those family dynamics.

Course Architecture

In an online course, regular and sustained attention to the course is critical. You will need to be attentive to the reading assignments, course activities, supplemental resources, and deadlines. This course is organized into modules, each addressing a different theory. Some modules contain one lesson, while others are several lessons long. You will finish one lesson each week. The first lesson (Introductory Lesson) will help orient you to the course and give you time to practice using the online tools. You will wrap up the course in the Conclusion Lesson by submitting your final assignments and assessments.

Each lesson:

Note on Course Architecture

Course activities have been labeled with the following designations: Preparation Materials (PM), Application Exercises (AE), and Ponder and Prove (PP). These descriptions help indicate the flow and order of each lesson's assignments as you work to complete the activities. Understanding the role each activity plays in your mastery of the course content will help ensure you complete all of the assignments on time.

Even though this course is online, it is not an independent study course. You will be expected to interact with classmates and others in order to teach them about what you 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 you will put your best effort into them.

This online course is designed to give you significant exposure to the course content. In order to do well, you should expect to spend 3-4 hours weekly for every credit earned. Therefore, you will need to be able to commit 9-12 hours each week to this course. If you are unable to commit to the time demands this semester, please consider taking the class some other time when you can commit the necessary time to completing the workload. This course will expose you to several theories of family dynamics and interaction that will help you begin to know how to address family problems. Not all of these ideas and skills will come easily; it takes a lot of work and practice to master them. So you should not be surprised to find that it may take you a little time to comprehend these ideas. Just be patient-as you approach the end of the course the ideas will start to come together, and you will see how much progress you have really made. You will understand the power to help others that comes with understanding these theories, and you will see the payoff in your persistence in learning them.

Remember, when you are prepared, the Holy Spirit can provide guidance and direction that will make a difference in your life. As you interact with others, please remember to be kind, considerate, and respectful. Any violation of basic common courtesy--including interaction with the instructor or other classmates--will negatively impact your grade.

Read the following article as a reminder of the promises and warnings Elder Bednar addressed concerning entitlement.

Course Activities

Due Midweek

Preparatory 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, you will need to spend time in thought and reflection. Therefore, you will need to spend time reviewing the lesson preparation materials, reflecting on the assigned readings, viewing any supplemental materials, and becoming prepared for a reading quiz.

Reading Quiz: This quiz will help you focus on the most important information from the preparation materials. The tests consist of multiple choice and a few essay/short answer questions.

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

Student Video Presentations: You 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/topic you are teaching. Your video presentations should not exceed 10 minutes and are usually better if they are shorter. You and your partner (you will sign up in the first few lessons of the course) should discuss how the video explicates principles and processes of the theory. Take time to look at or explain several parts of the theory, not just one or 2. Your presentation will be graded on the following criteria:

Your presentation must be posted for the class to view while the topic is been studied. Your classmates will need the video to complete their own assignments, so you must post your link on time.

Due End of Week

Student Video Response: Each week (beginning in Lesson 4) you will respond to two student presentations that will be posted by midweek. Discuss the presentations with others. Then give feedback by pointing out the strengths of the presentation, asking follow-up questions, or suggesting how the presentations might be improved.

Discuss with a Friend: Each week, you will need to spend some time discussing what you are learning with others both inside and outside of class. Teaching someone else what you are learning will help you 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. So begin now to think of friends with whom you might share what you are learning.

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

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

Examinations: There are three examinations. The first two examinations will include only the material you have studied in that unit. The final examination will be a comprehensive exam.

Course Materials

Compare prices for your textbooks through the University Store Price Comparison site. The bookstore will show you all of the options from the University Store plus several online options to help you find the best price.

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 and video recordings, or images of the same, etc. including your own work for this course) to any parties outside of this course (ie Course Hero, Quizlet, Google Docs, etc.) by any means (e.g., posting, uploading, attachments, etc.) without the express 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 (please see Academic Honesty) 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 (e.g., give you a failing grade for the assignment and/or fail you from the course). Additionally, the respective Course Lead, Program Lead, and/or Department Chair also reserve the right to impose appropriate academic sanctions regardless of any imposed by the instructor.


Grading Policies

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

Final Grade Breakdown

A 93 - 100% C 73 - 76%
A- 90 - 92% C- 70 - 72%
B+ 89- 87% D+ 67 - 69%
B 83 - 86% D 63 - 66%
B- 80 - 82% D- 60 - 62%
C+ 77 - 79% F 59% and below

Grading Summary

Class Policies

Course Questions/Problems/Concerns

This course has a "Notes from Instructor" board in each lesson where you can post general questions, problems, concerns, etc. Using these boards will inform the instructor, class members, and others monitoring the course of the issues you find, and that will allow the proper people to correct them for everyone. Please use this board in each lesson. If you are experiencing the same problem as another student who has posted, you can post as well so others know the seriousness of the problem. If you know the answer to a problem, please post solutions. Helping to solve your classmates' problems is another way to teach one another. Additionally, your instructor will use this board to communicate with you, including informing you of fixes and solutions. So check back often to learn of any changes to the course.

Note: You should only email your instructor directly if the problem is of a personal natureor your instructor informs you that is the way he/she 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 your ability to fully participate in the course and will be accepted only at your instructor's discretion. No late work will be accepted without first obtaining permission from the instructor. Inform your instructor before the assignment is due. Any late work that is accepted is subject to a penalty as determined by your instructor.

University Policies

The University has established and posted policies concerning Sexual Harassment, Plagiarism, and Disabilities Services. Read the University Policies to become familiar with the policies regarding:


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. You will be notified prior to any changes that may take place, so pay attention to communication from your instructor.


Materials on BYU Idaho I-Learn and related sites may be protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code). These materials 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.