Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Communication and the Construction of Family

01:090:292:01 Index# 10523
Professor Jenny Mandelbaum, SC&I - Communication
M 2:50-5:50P
BRT Seminar Room
College Ave Campus


Will Count Towards SC&I - Communication Major
Will NOT Count Towards 
SC&I - Communication Minor

Even in a time of rapid social change, family remains the primary influence on children’s socialization and development. While ‘family’ is often held up as a core social value, what does the term mean and what are the consequences of types of family configurations, dynamics, and forms of interaction? While some take the view that family structures shape communication, in this course we aim to put communication at the center of the family, and explore how we enact family through communication, while examining the communication challenges that families face in various sociocultural contexts.

We will explore different definitions of family and the communication issues that couples face upon entering into this social institution. The course will then examine how communication dynamics change as couples become families. Specifically, we will focus on how “family” is enacted through the communication practices of couples, parents and children, siblings, and extended family members. We will also examine how communication impacts interactions with societal institutions (including education, politics, media, technology), and how families are affected by major societal and life shifts (including family health, divorce, immigration, family vs. workplace, and conflict and its resolution).

JENNY MANDELBAUM (Ph.D. The University of Texas at Austin) is a Professor in the Department of Communication at Rutgers University. Her research examines the organization of everyday interaction, using video- and audio-recordings of naturally occurring conversations as a resource for describing how we use interaction to “do” things – tell stories, complain, blame, offer compliments, make requests and offers, etc., and in so doing construct relationships and identities, and enact family and professional life. She and her students are currently working on a large database of naturally occurring field video-recordings of families interacting. She has received grant support for introducing web-based technologies to the University classroom, and serves as a faculty mentor in the SAS College Honors Program, and as a Master Teacher in the Teaching Assistant Project’s Master Faculty Observation Program. In addition to classes in the Communication major, she teaches Byrne Seminars, SAS Honors Program Interdisciplinary Seminars, and supervises Aresty Undergraduate Research Assistants. Winner of Rutgers’ Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000, she has been a Rutgers Presidential Fellow in the Rutgers (formerly Carnegie) Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Leadership Program since its inception.