Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Psychology of the Family

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION The study-unit offers the student the opportunity to examine the family. It will start by introducing students to definitions of family and exposing them to changing family structures and forms. The family life cycle will be presented with a focus on the developmental issues at play in each of the stages, followed by an exploration of the gender and power framework. Love and the various forms of couple relationships in contemporary society will be discussed. Couple conflict, couple dissolution, and intimate partner violence will also be discussed. The struggle for creating a balance between work and home will be highlighted with a major focus on the ethics of care. Due consideration will be given to the plight of families living in poverty and of families experiencing mental health issues. By way of conclusion the resilience processes by which diverse families adapt, mobilize resources for coping, and grow will be highlighted.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit aims to give undergraduate students an understanding of what it means to be a family in the 21st century. It will give them the opportunity to reflect on how families are changing in today's world.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- understand how and why families are changing in today's world;
- be aware of what conceptual framework/s inform him/her to understand the situations such families find themselves in.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- debate on the contrasting values related to family life;
- locate their beliefs about family life and understand why this makes sense to them;
- reflect on how they respond to the rapid changes that are occurring in today's families and the implications related to their response.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts

- Abela, A., & Walker, J. (Eds.). (2014). Contemporary issues in family studies: Global perspectives on partnerships, parenting and support in a changing world. Chichester, England: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Collins, D., Jordan, C., & Coleman, H. (2013). An introduction to family social work (4th. international ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
- McGoldrick, M., Carter, B., & Garcia-Preto, N. (Eds.). (2013). The expanded family life cycle: Individual, family, and social perspectives (4th international ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
- Walsh, F. (Ed.). (2012). Normal family processes: Growing diversity and complexity (4th ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Supplementary Readings:

- Abela, A. (2013). Malta. In R. E. Emery (Ed.), Cultural sociology of divorce: An encyclopedia (Vol. 2, pp. 748-753). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Abela, A., Casha, C., Borg Xuereb, R., Clark, M., Inguanez, J., & Sammut Scerri, C. (2012). The needs of Maltese families with dependent children: A focus group study among professionals. Bank of Valletta Review, (45), 55-86. Retrieved from
- Abela, A., Casha, C., Debono, M., & Lauri, M. A. (2015). Attitudes about remarriage in Malta. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 56(5), 369-387. doi: 10.1080/10502556.2015.1046799
- Abela, A., Farrugia, R., Casha, C., Galea, M., & Schembri, D. (2013). The relationship between Maltese adolescents and their parents (Department of Family Studies Research Report No.1). Valletta, Malta: Office of the President of Malta.
- Abela, A., Farrugia, R., Vella, A. M., & DeGiovanni, K. (2016). Familialistic countries need a family-inclusive service when caring for people with mental health problems: The case of Malta. Families, Relationships and Societies, 5(2), 313-331. doi: 10.1332/204674315X14365326675064
- Abela, A., & Tabone, C. (2008). Research on the Family Series: No. 1. Family poverty and social exclusion with a special emphasis on children. Valletta, Malta: National Family Commission.
- Borg Xuereb, R., Abela, A., & Spiteri, G. (2012). Early parenting: Portraits from the lives of first-time parents. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 30(5), 468-482. doi: 10.1080/02646838.2012.744961
- Briguglio, M., & Brown, M. (Eds.). (2016). Sociology of the Maltese Islands. Luqa, Malta: Miller.
- The President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society. (2016). Sustaining relationships: Couples and singles in a changing society. Attard, Malta: Author.

ADDITIONAL NOTES This study-unit is only offered to students with Psychology as an area of study.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%


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The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2021/2. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.