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Love, Intimacy & Family Policy - SPY00019H

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Christine Skinner
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

Finding love and the ‘right’ partner to live with is a major life-course event and one of the biggest challenges we face as adults. So too is becoming a parent. Yet, Western countries are struggling; we have high rates of relationship breakdown and this is a worry for policy makers and for wider society. Does this mean we are no longer capable of making commitments to one another? Are our relationships more disposable; do we drop or swap partners when we feel they are no longer of any use to us? Or is it that the traditional expectations of the past are being remodelled as people are finding new and perhaps more creative ways of 'doing' family and being in families. This module explores theses changes in our most intimate of relationships and how family policy both responds and also supports mothers and fathers to work and care for their children. These key topics of partnering and parenting are relevant to all our lives.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

The module aims to help students address some important questions about changes in contemporary intimate and family relationships. Western societies’ emphasize love and intimacy as the best foundations for creating strong personal relationships, for having children and for building new families. The belief is that ‘stable families’ are best for our personal happiness, for children’s well-being and beneficial for the rest of society too. ‘Stable’ happy families are also what policy makers wish for. Yet, statistical evidence shows that family structures and relationships are fluid: there are high rates of family dissolution and cohabitation and relatively low rates of marriage. What does this all mean for families, family policy and the state and for wider society?

This module will help students interrogate these social changes in depth, applying a range of sociological theories to critique the current debates and family policy responses. Students will also evaluate policies that support parents to work and care and consider the role of family policy in breaking down the barriers to gender equality in families with dependent children. It will help students to:

  • understand the social changes in partnering, parenting and the gender division of labour between parents in families.
  • become familiar with the policy challenges posed by such social change
  • critically engage with theories on social change and apply them to provide an analysis of current family policies
  • develop transferrable employment skills in:
    • Information literacy as students will search for and retrieve a broad range of materials, including journal articles, government documents, lobby group publications etc.
    • Time management in planning and providing a presentation for a ‘student conference’
    • Oral, written and presentations skills gained through group working throughout the module and completion of the module assessments.
    • Creativity, responsibility and independent learning skills, as students will construct their own assessment question that represents 100% mark for the module.
    • Reflexivity as students learn to examine and question their own cultural and world views and those of policy makers in regards to the normative expectations around families and relationships.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Distinguish between different family types, appreciate the fluid nature of family structures and describe the key elements of social change.
  • Identify sociological theories describing the nature of change in the formation and dissolution of personal intimate relationships and the gendered nature of family practices.
  • Identify and critique social policies aimed at supporting parents and upholding normative family types.
  • Apply critical thinking to policy initiatives and theoretical debates about the nature of partnering, parenting and work-life balance.
  • work collaboratively in small groups to effectively discuss key issues and present them well to their classmates.
  • develop, plan and participate in presenting short presentations.
  • Take responsibility for their own learning through participating in formative assessment opportunities and through the creative construction of their own summative assessment question.

Module content

This module will explore the changing nature of ‘the family’ and the challenges this poses for all of us with regards to forming intimate relationships and for the state in supporting family life. It focuses solely on families with dependent children. Using a mixture of lectures, workshops, and seminar debates it will explore:

  • Social change: is it the end of the family?
  • Political rhetoric: lone parents and moral panics
  • Partnering: love and commitment in marriage and cohabitation
  • Policy challenges: dealing with consequences of family breakdown
  • Parenting: managing work and family life
  • Gender equality: the roles of mothers and fathers


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work is embedded in two main ways:

In week 6 students will chose a topic for the student conference presentation and will have submitted a plan to the tutor. They will receive individual face to face feedback provided in weeks 7 and 8. The conference topic should also be related to their assessment question.

In week 8 students should submit a draft of their essay question which they have constructed themselves (with support from the tutor). Alongside the question, they should provide an essay plan (approx 500-750 words). They will receive individual face to face feedback provided in weeks 9 and 10.

All the formative work is designed to support students' skill development and to become independent learners by taking responsibility for their own assessments. Students are supported to exercise their creativity to produce their own conference presentation topic and to design their own assessment question. The formative work is also designed to help students test out their understanding before they complete the taught elements of the course. In addition each formative element builds on the other so that students can deepen their learning by the end of the module. In creating their own assessment question, it also provides the opportunity for students to apply what they have learned from other parts of the programme. Throughout this process, students are supported in one to one sessions in the classroom with the tutor.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Also see additional assessment section below for this module.

Feedback is provided throughout the weekly seminars and in one to one discussions between the tutor and the students about creating their own summative assessment question.

Face to face feedback is provided on their conference presentation plans in weeks 7 and 8.

Face to face individual feedback is provided on students assessment question and essay plan in weeks 9 and 10.

Feedback on the submitted summative assessment is provided 5 weeks after submission using a marking matrix.

Indicative reading

  • Giddens, A. (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy, Oxford: Polity Press
  • Lewis, J. (2006) Children, Changing Families and the Welfare State, London: Edward Elgar
  • McKie, L. and Callan, S. (2012) Understanding Families, London: Sage.
  • Chambers, D. (2012) A Sociology of Family Life, Oxford: Polity Press
  • Steel, L. and Kidd, W.and Brown, A. (2012) The Family, Hampshire: Palgrave.
  • Williams, F. (2004) Rethinking Families, London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.