Humanities 359

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   sample syllabus


The course explores father-daughter relationships in contemporary American society. Through an exploration of the psychological research, documentary films, and short stories by several famous American writers, the course addresses such questions as:
What impact does sex role socialization have on father-daughter relationships?
What impact do fathers have on daughters’ academic achievements and cognitive development?
How can public school teachers and counselors work better with fathers for the benefit of their daughters?
What impact do fathers and father absence have on daughters’ psychological and social development?
In what ways do societal memes and stereotypes damage or limit father-daughter relationships?
What role does the father play in the development of a daughter’s eating disorder or depression? 
How are father-daughter relationships affected by the parents’ marital unhappiness or divorce?
How are attachment theory and family system’s theory relevant to father-daughter relationships?
How and why are African American daughters’ relationships with their fathers often unique?
How and why is adolescence usually the most difficult time for fathers and daughters?  
How can mental health workers work more effectively with fathers and daughters?
What issues create the most stress or do the most damage to father-daughter relationships?
How can these issues or situations be prevented, minimized or resolved

Required Reading

Nielsen- Fathers and daughters: Contemporary Research & Issues - Routledge Press, 2012
Nielsen – Between Fathers  & Daughters: Enriching or Rebuilding Your Adult Relationship - 2009
Barras – Whatever happened to daddy’s little girl – The impact of fatherlessness on black women     
Maine – Father Hunger: Fathers, daughters and the pursuit of thinness
Park & Brott- Throwaway Dads  (two xeroxed chapters)
Ten articles  from refereed journals-  see directions for research presentation

Requirements & Grading
Two written tests - 60 points .

You will be tested over the statistics, research, and ideas presented in the assigned readings. The tests will be a combination of multiple choice and essay questions.

Attendance & Participation - 5 points
To earn an A you have to attend at least 90% of the classes, 85% for a B & 70% for a C. Since this is a seminar course, you are expected to voluntary participate in every class. You will keep a weekly record of how much you participate. Come prepared to answer these two questions in every seminar: (1) What surprised or upset you most in the assigned reading? Why? (2) What part of the reading was most relevant to your relationship with your father?

2 Papers based on interviews with your father - 20 points
Using the questions provided for you in Nielsen's book, you will conduct two interviews with your father during the semester. Afterwards you will write a 3-5 page paper answering these questions: In what ways did the assigned readings relate to your conversation with your father? From what you learned from your conversation, what specific things can you do to strengthen your relationship with him? What did you find most surprising and most rewarding about your conversation? What did each of you find most meaningful and most difficult to talk about?
** If for whatever reason you and your dad are not able to do this particular assignment, Dr. Nielsen will design an alternate
assignment for you.

Research Presentation  = 15 points
Choose one aspect of father-daughter relationships that interests you most from among the topics presented in the assigned readings or documentaries. Using American Psychological Association or American Sociological Association journals, the Journal of Marriage and Divorce, and the Family Court Review Journal, read ten articles published after 2001 related to your chosen topic. Write a 5-7 sentence synopsis of each article to hand in to Dr. Nielsen after your presentation. Present your findings and conclusions in a 20 minute presentation to the class. Design your presentation in whatever way you feel will be most interesting to your classmates.    

.Grading Scale
A = 90-100 points       B = 80-89 points        C = 70-79 points     


Graduate students will be required to write a 15 page research paper on a topic related to father-daughter relationships and to present the findings to the class in a 30 minute presentation.  The research paper will be designed in consultation with Dr. Nielsen and will focus on the most recent research in social science journals, government statistics and data from national research centers. The research will be a descriptive review of the literature germane to the student’s question and will not involve collecting data of any sort from human subjects.



Black Men Raising Daughters Alone
Center for Successful Fathering
Father's Direct
Fathers' Resource Center
Father Magazine
Father and Child Society

Mr. Dad
National Center for Fathering
National Center on Fathers & Families
National Fatherhood Initiative
Stay at Home Dads
TV Single Dads


American Coalition for Fathers & Children
Divorced Fathers Network
Fathers & Families
fathers for Justice


After watching each of these, write a 3-5 sentence reaction to it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v66VMFBPq8E Singapore father raising his daughter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ltYQlFuzrg American dad talking to daughter's boyfriend

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ0Wp39Cq2o Dad cheerleading

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgXX6NSkAy0 Asian dad and daughter's boyfriend

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIn8wXZF2yk The parting gift - childhood to bride

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34jKxFbq3_Q - absent father finds daughter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6c8npubnj4 daughter's "surprise" date

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGmU0JMz8xg divorced dad takes daughter to Hawaii

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L64c5vT3NBw dad singing with his daughter (true story) .

http://www.advocate.com/business/2012/10/03/watch-expedia-commercial-will-explain-fatherhood-and-make-you-sob#.UGygwSVYIjs.facebook - daughters wedding

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/dads-sing-tune-little-mermaid-162913068.html - dads singing the Little Mermaid song to daughters


The ideal conversation
Using the techniques suggested in Nielsen’s chapter on communication, type a 2 page, single spaced hypothetical conversation between a father and daughter in which they are trying to resolve a problem that is causing tension in their  relationship. Write the paper in the form of a dialogue. Daughter:  “Dad, I’ve decided I don’t want to go to grad school next year. I want to take a year off to travel.” Dad: “I’ve already told you how ridiculous that is with things being as competitive as they are.” Daughter: “Yes, but I’m sick of school.” Dad: “So what? You need to get a jump on a good career.” Use the advice from Nielsen’s chapter to create the best possible responses that the daughter could make and the best possible approaches she could take in resolving the problem.     

Magazines: Bring two magazine ads to class-one that is sending a stereotypical, traditional message about what a father should be and one that sends a non-sexist, non-traditional message about fathers or fatherhood. A non-traditional ad is one that shows fathers or fatherhood in a way that is typically associated with mothers or motherhood. What message does each ad send about what a father should do or should provide? TV: Repeat this exercise for two advertisements on television. Briefly describe each ad and the message it is sending about fathers or fatherhood. Children's Books: Look at a children's book that has human or animal parents. Choose a book published since 1990. What messages do the pictures send about fathers and fatherhood? What messages does the story itself send about what a good father does and how he is supposed to relate to his son - and to his daughter. You can find these books in local bookstores or in the library in Tribble A2A - basement floor. Movies: Think of three movies that deal with families. How are the father and mother portrayed in terms of what a good parent does, who the audience is supposed to feel sorriest for or forgive, and who the bad guy and good guy are supposed to be.
TV SINGLE DADS - visit this web site and then write a 1 page single spaced, typed reaction. www.tvdads.com

ASSIGNMENT: CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR FATHER These questions are intended to help you as a daughter get to know your father on a more meaningful, more personal, more honest, and more mature level. Your father does not have to answer any question that makes him uncomfortable. You can discuss the questions in any order you want. I recommend that you let your dad start each conversation with those questions that he finds most interesting to him. The papers you are required to write about each of your 3 conversations do NOT require you to disclose personal or confidential information about your father. When you are discussing these questions with your father, be sure that no other family member is nearby. The two of you must have complete privacy and plenty of time. Do not assume ahead of time that you know what he is or is not willing to talk about. LET YOUR FATHER SPEAK FOR HIMSELF. Begin: Ask your father to choose 10 or 15 pictures of him and his father, him as a boy and as a teenager, his wedding, him with you as a baby and as you were growing up, him and his friends. Then ask him to tell you about what was going on in his life around the time each picture was taken.


9/2  -    Lecture and discussion: Fatherhood Issues & Current Research    
9/9       Damaging Beliefs and Stereotypes 
              Nielsen Ch. 1 & 2     Park & Brott – xeroxed chapters 4 & 5
             Assignment : Fathers in commercials & kids’ books  
             Lecture: socialization & stereotypes

9/16     Work and Money 
             Nielsen Ch. 5   handouts : Wills & Ways, Weddings   
            Lecture: money and  family dynamics
            Assignment : Web site paper   
            Film: Juggling Family & Work    Complete question sheet after the film

9/23     Communication : Your father’s family
            Nielsen Ch. 3    
            Assignment:  perfect conversation paper 
            Film: Fathers & Sons -  Complete question sheet                     

9/30     Communication     
            Nielsen Ch. 4      

10/7     Test    Partner’s exercise afterwards                  

10/14     Fathers &  Eating Disorders   - First Interview paper due
             Maine Chapters 1,3, 7, 8 , 9,  11, 13                                 

10/21   Mothers and Motherhood
            Parke Ch.  7 & 11   Nielsen Ch. 6       
            Lecture: Family Triangles & unhappy marriages
10/28   Absent  Fathers         
           Barras – Chapters 1-11    Nielsen Chapter 9  
           Guest Speaker:
  11/4     Divorce & Remarriage        
             Nielsen Ch. 7      Barras – chapters 11-19
            Documentary: Dads who fought back       
             Written assignment due:  Advising a Daughter     

11/11   Dating & Sexuality
             Nielsen Ch 8,  Maine ch 8
             Research presentations              

11/18   Test    Partner’s exercise afterwards

11/25   Thanksgiving  holiday 

12/2   Research  presentations & Interview paper due            


These films are in the WFU library or the Women's and Gender Studies library.:

divorce and Remarriage
Young Girl and the Monsoon (Nielsen's office)
Kramer vs. Kramer Step Mom
Nobody's Fool
Shoot the Moon
Twice in a Lifetime Affliction

Men's Lives
Spring Forward
The Big Kahuna
Glengarry Glen Ross

Your Father and His Father
I Never Sang for my

Father Pushing Hands
Voyage Around my Father
Tell me a Riddle

All Men are Sons (allmenaresons.com)
Heroes and Strangers
My Father, the Genius
Daddy Hunger

Your Parents' Marriage
Ordinary People
The Secret Lives of Dentists (goofy title, but a serious film)
American Beauty

Fathers and Daughters
Father and Daughter (Michael Dudok de Wit - 2001 Academy Award)
Father of the Bride
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Ulee's Gold
All About Schmidt
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries
One True Thing
On Golden Pond
Slums of Beverly Hills
Daddy Nostalgia


Short Stories

Broyard - My Father Dancing
Frangello - Falling Backwards
Morgan - Fathers and Daughters

Autobiography/ Memoirs
Gawalt - First Daughters: Letters between presidents and their daughters
Lyons - Landscape of the Heart
Dodson - Faithful Travelers: A father, daughter and fly fishing journey
Norman - Two for the Summit: My Daughter, the Mountain and Me
Karbo - The Stuff of Life
McIvor - FBI Girl
Appelt - My Father's Summers
Cohen - House on Beattown Road (Alzheimers)
Levine - Do You Remember Me? (Alzheimers)
Miller - Story of My Father (Alzheimers)
Oliver - Assembling My Father (Alzheimers)

Photographic Essays
Cook - Fathers and Daughters
Gayles - Father Songs
Perchinske - Commitment: Fatherhood in Black America (U of Missouri)
Smith - Fathers: A Celebration Contemporary Novels


Nielsen - Between Fathers and Daughters
*All of your answers must be suppored by the research data and statistics cited in the chapters. 

Chapter 2- Fatherhood Beliefs

  1. What are the 5 negative beliefs about fathers discussed in this chapter? Cite specific research or statistics to show how and why each belief is untrue.  Explain how each belief can hurt the father-daughter relationship. 
  2. How do mothers and fathers differ in each of these respects: child care, housework, employment, balancing work and parenting, parenting styles, job stress, maternal instinct.  Cite specific research conclusions or statistics to support each answer. 
  3. Describe 3 ways we often get negative messages about father or fatherhood.
  4. How do our society’s definitions of a good father change over time? Cite specific examples.
  5. What do we mean by the “idealization” of motherhood and how does this hurt father-daughter relationships?
  6. Explain 3 ways that our beliefs about fathers matter in terms of how they affect father-daughter relationships?
  7. Describe 3 ways in which idealizing mothers or motherhood can hurt the father-daughter relationship.
  8. What are 5 beliefs about father-daughter relationships that can weaken them? Explain how each influences the relationship.  
  9. Explain 5 areas of a daughter’s life that are affected by the kind of relationship she has with her father. In 3-5 sentences for each, explain how the father influences her in that area of her development.
  10. How can each of these have a negative impact on the father-daughter relationship: school counselor and family therapists, television, national holidays, advertising.
  11. What are 5 differences in the ways the most fathers and mothers relate to their children? 
  12. Which mothers are usually the most supportive and least jealous of the father-daughter relationship?
  13. What usually determines the kind of relationship the father has with the children?
  14. What are 4 ways you can tell when a child and parent have become triangulated or enmeshed?
  15. What are 3 ways an unhappy marriage affects children’s relationships with each parent? How does it differ for mothers and fathers?

Chapter 5 - Work and Money

  1. Explain 5 different ways in which money or work can interfere with father-daughter relationships. Then explain 5 different ways in which these difficulties could be avoided or diminished.
  2. What 4 beliefs of yours were challenged by the statistics or research in this chapter and what were the results of the research or statistics?

    1. What are 4 beliefs related to work and income which can interfere with their relationships with their children?
    2. What 5 statistics or research studies surprised you most in the Eye Openers?
    3. What are 3 ways in which dads have less freedom and less power than moms in regard to work and money?   
    4. In regard to their fathers and money, what are 3 potentially damaging beliefs or behaviors that many daughters have? What negative impact can the daughter’s beliefs or behavior have on her relationship with her father?  
    5. What are 5 issues related to a daughter’s work or money that can have a negative impact on her relationship with her father? How can each of these issues be dealt with according to the author?
    6. What are 4 statistical facts about retirement that daughters should keep in mind regarding dad’s financial future?
    7. What are 5 statistical facts about young adults’ attitudes and behavior that give fathers legitimate reason for worrying and trying to teach their kids about money?
    8. A daughter says to you: “My dad is more interested in his work than in being with us. He loves his job and is happy that mom has been the one mainly in charge of raising us.”  What 5 research facts or statistics could you share with her that might help her reconsider negative attitudes about her dad?
    9. A daughter says to you: “Nobody forced my dad to choose his demanding career. That’s what he wanted to do with his life.” What 5 research facts or statistics would you share with her that might help her see things differently?
    10. Someone says to you: Employed mothers do an unfair share of work at home compared to employed fathers. What are 3 statistical facts or research conclusions you can share with this person? 
    11. What were 3 of the major conclusions from the book, The Second Shift? What were 3 weaknesses in this study? What are 3 facts from more recent and more thorough studies that refute her conclusions? Why do so many people still believe that mothers work a second shift but fathers don’t? 

Chapter 3 - Communication (15-sentence explanations for each question)

  1. Explain 5 ways in which most males and females are taught to communicate differently.
  2. Describe 5 components of emotional intelligence.  
  3. Describe 3 mistakes daughters can make communicating with their fathers.  Then explain specific ways daughters can improve in each of these 3 areas.  (5-7 sentences for each)
  4. Describe 4 techniques daughters can use to improve communication when their fathers are giving them advice. 
  5. What are 3 reasons a daughter needs to let her father know weather it’s advice or approval she wants from him? Give specific examples to demonstrate each reason. 
  6. In terms of advice and approval, describe 3 differences between mothers and fathers.
  7. What are 3 reasons why it’s difficult for most fathers and daughters to deal with anger?
  8. Explain 4 ways daughters can deal better with anger in regard to their fathers. 
  9. What is emotional blackmail and describe 3 different ways to deal with it.
  10. What are 3 of the beliefs that make it easy for people to use emotional blackmail against each other.

Chapter 4 - Getting to Know Each Other

  1. Describe/explain 5 of the components of emotional intimacy?   (From the Emotional Intimacy Quiz)
  2. Explain 5 things a daughter can do to build more emotional intimacy with her father.
  3. What are 5 ways in which most males and females differ when it comes to emotional intimacy?

  1. In 4-5 sentences each, explain differences between privacy and secrecy in terms of how we behave and the impact on relationships. Give an example for each of a negative impact on the father-daughter relationship.
  2. What are 3 ways in which secrecy and lies can hurt the father-daughter relationship?
  3. What are 5 reasons why memory and perceptions can hurt our relationships?

Chapter 5 - Mothers

  1. What are 5 common beliefs about mothers which are not true according to our research or statistics?
  2. What are 5 beliefs about mothers who stay home full time that are not in fact true? What specific research conclusions or statistics  refute  each belief?
  3. In order to predict how jealous or how uncomfortable a particular woman is likely to be about “sharing” her daughter EQUALLY with the father, what are 5 areas or 5 questions  to consider? Put differently, what are 5 factors that influence how comfortable a woman will feel about allowing the father to be an EQUAL parent?
  4. Most mothers will say they want their daughter to be just as close to the father as to her. What are 5 things you might look at or monitor or ask questions about to determine if, in fact, the mother is actually DOING this?
  5. A daughter comes to you for advice. She says that her mother has never said anything negative about her father, but she gets the feeling that her mother doesn’t think he’s nearly as good a parent as she is. What are 4 things this mother might be doing to give her daughter this impression?  (Different answers from #4)
  6. Explain each of these situations in terms of how they can negatively affect the father-daughter relationship: enmeshed, boundaries, triangulation. What are 3 factors that make these situations most likely to occur?
  7. What are 5 things a mother can do to help her daughter have a close relationship with her father?
  8. What are 4 commonly held beliefs about adultery that are not supported by the research and statistics? What are the facts for each?
  9. What are 3 ways in which adultery can hurt the father-daughter relationship?
  10. A daughter is angry at her dad because he cheated on her mother. What are 3 things you might help this daughter consider in terms of what’s good for her father-daughter relationship.     

Chapter 6 - Sex and Dating

  1. What are 10 statistical facts about teenage sex and dating that worry many fathers?
  2. What do the majority of men your father’s age believe or how did they behave as young men in terms of: virginity, drug use, divorce, abortion, inte- racial marriage, sex education in schools, drinking, cigarette smoking.
  3. What are 4 of the fears that fathers often have about their teenage daughters’ social lives. In 2-3 sentences each, explain how each of these fears can cause dads to behave in ways that hurt the father-daughter relationship.

  1. In 3-5 sentences each, what are 4 of Nielsen’s suggestions for handling sex or dating issues with your father?
  2. In 3-5 sentences each explain 4 mistakes daughters make that create more stress for their fathers.
  3. What is the difference between secrecy and privacy, and how can these two issues have a negative impact on father-daughter relationships?
  4. Historically why were fathers concerned with these issues in their daughters’ lives: virginity, marriage, rape.

Chapter 7 - Divorce

  1. What do the statistics and research studies tell us about divorced fathers in regard to: how upset they are compared to their ex-wife after divorce; who initiates divorce; who commits adultery; and who loses the most time and influence over the children?
  2. What are 3 types of psychological or social problems that many children develop when they see little or nothing of their own father? Briefly explain (5-6 sentences each) how each is related to the father's absence.
  3. EXPLAIN 3 of the reasons why most fathers aren't more involved with their children after a divorce?
  4. What are 2 popular assumptions about mothers or motherhood that work against divorced fathers? Briefly explain how each works against the divorced father staying closely bonded to his children.
  5. In 5-6 sentences each, explain 3 of the ways in which our society idealizes mothers or motherhood?
  6. In 5-6 sentences each, explain 2 of the ways in which most divorced fathers are disadvantaged by our laws?
  7. In 5-6 sentences each, explain 3 ways  a mother can weaken the father's bond with their children after divorce.
  8. In 5-6 sentences each, explain 3 reasons why the father's remarrying can weaken his bond with his children.
  9. In 5-6 sentences each, explain how mother's parenting style affects kids’ relationships with dad after divorce. 
  10. In 5-6 sentences each, explain 3 reasons why children's memories can hurt their relationship with their father after divorce. In each explanation, include the research findings that relate to your answer. 
  11. In 5-6 sentences each, explain how each of these variables might weaken a father's relationship with his children after divorce: the mother's income, the mother's guilt, the mother's attitudes about gender roles.
  12. In 5-6 sentences each, explain 4 ways in which mothers generally have more power than fathers after divorce.
  13. In 5-6 sentences each, describe 4 common myths about divorced dads and give the statistics to refute each myth.

Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl – Barras and  Nielsen’s chapter 9
 In 5-7 sentences for each of the way, 
1.Describe 5 ways in which Black daughters are adversely affected by father absence?
2. Explain five of the author’s suggestions  for trying to reconcile with an absent father?.
3. Explain five mistakes that daughters may make in trying to reconcile with their fathers.
4.  Explain 5 ways in which African American mothers can have a negative impact on father-daughter relationships.
5. Describe 5 ways in which a daughter’s relationships with men can be negatively affected by father absence.

Throwaway Dads
Chapter 4
1. When both parents are employed, fathers don’t do their fair share of the housework. Mothers do a “second shift” of work but dad’s don’t. In 5-7 sentences each, explain 3 reasons why this belief is incorrect. Cite recent research and specific statistics to support your 3 reasons.   
2.Most divorced dads are deadbeat dads. They don’t pay what they’re supposed to pay in child support. In 5-7 sentences each, explain 3 reasons why this belief is incorrect. Cite recent statistics and research to support each of the 3 reasons.
Chapter 5
Using  specific examples from this chapter, in 5-7 sentences each, explain 3 ways in which children’s literature is often biased against fathers?  
2. In 5-7 sentences each, explain 3 ways in which tv  shows and commercials misrepresent or demean fathers.


Maine:  Father Hunger
 Chapter 1  & 3
1. List the  ten myths about fathers, daughters and food?
2. For each myth,  in 2-3 sentences each, explain what the reality is that defies the myth?

Chapter 7

  1. In 3-5 sentences each, explain how each of these aspects of her relationship to her father can contribute to a daughter’s developing an eating disorder:  emotional connectedness during teen years, unrequited love, father being the main breadwinner, and the way that society teaches most men to communicate.
  2. What is the connection being a daughter wanting to feel powerful and her developing an eating disorder?
  3. In 2-3 sentences each, explain 4 things that a father can do to decrease the chances of his daughter developing an eating disorder?

Chapter 8

  1. What is the connection between how a father feels about  his daughter’s sexual maturity and her developing an eating disorder?
  2. In 2-3 sentences each, explain 3 of the things a father can do while his daughter is becoming sexually mature that will decrease the odds of her developing an eating disorder.

Chapter 9

  1. In 2-3 sentences each, explain 5 of the dysfunctions in a family that are often associated with the daughter developing an eating disorder. 
  2. In 7-10  sentences explain what “triangulation” is and explain how it contributes to eating disorders.
  3. In 7-10 sentences explain what “boundaries” are in a family and how they are related to eating disorders.
  4. In 3-5 sentences each, explain how each of these aspects of the family are related to eating disorders:
    marital unhappiness,  mother’s neediness,  having a sibling with serious medical problems.
  5. 5. In 5-7 sentences explain 3 ways a mom can decrease the likelihood of her daughter developing an eating disorder.     
    C hapter 11
    1. In 3-5 sentences each, explain 5 things dads can do to help anorexic daughters.   
    2. In 7-10 sentences explain how a man’ relationship with his  father impacts a daughter with eating disorders.
    3. In 3-5 sentences each, explain 3 mistakes that dads can make in communicating with an anorexic daughter.

Chapter 13
1. In 3-5 sentences each, explain 5 of the changes that daughters with eating disorders need to  make in order to help themselves recover.
2.Explain 3 of the mistakes that daughters with eating disorders make in terms of adhering to the “masculine model”? 
3.In 7-10 sentences, explain  how each is related to anorexia or bulimia: being daddy’s little girl, blaming her father,  disagreeing with her father,  fantasizing about childhood.     




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