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Online · School of Behavioral Sciences · Community Care and Counseling

Divorce, Marriage and Blended Families

  • CG
  • Section 8WK
  • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020
  • Modified 02/03/2020

Course Description

This course prepares students to address multiple factors contributing to the breakdown of a family and draws upon current findings in marriage and family research, as well as psychological literature to identify significant influences and outcomes of divorce. Attention is given to the reconstructed family exposing those treatments found to be most effective for stability and satisfaction.



HSCO 500


The last four decades have yielded a plethora of evidence as to the prevalence, leading causal factors, and psychological, as well as sociological implications of the cultural phenomenon that has reached epidemic statistical proportions. Despite a range of ideological perspectives attempting to give explanation to the condition, there is a strong and growing need for human service professionals to better understand how the individual members of a family are affected by the loss of its integrity and stability. This course builds on the existing Judeo-Christian understanding of family as foundational to society, but goes further in its exploration of how best to intervene in the wake of a divorce to re-stabilize the members affected and equip those same individuals for future involvement in marriage and family without being unduly jeopardized by the original break.

Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Identify realities of the current state of marriages in America.
  2. Recognize and describe relationship patterns of disconnected and unsatisfied marriages, as well as individual and relational variables that predict divorce.
  3. Identify the emotional and relational processes and consequences of divorce for adults and children.
  4. Describe the legal process and requirements associated with divorce.
  5. Develop a personal hermeneutic of divorce and remarriage based on Scripture.
  6. Recognize the effects of marital conflict, divorce, child maltreatment and remarriage on children.
  7. Identify the common issues children have following parental divorce and describe strategies for healthy adjustment.

Course Resources

Required Resource Purchases

Deal, R. (2014). The smart stepfamily: The seven steps to a healthy family. Bethany House Publishers. ISBN: 9780764212062

Dobson, J. (2007). Love must be tough: New hope for marriages in crisis. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House. ISBN: 9781414317458.

Hart, A. (1997). Helping children survive divorce: What to expect; how to help. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ISBN: 9780849939495

Papernow, P. L. (2013). Surviving and thriving in stepfamily relationships: What works and what doesn’t. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN: 9780415894388.

Disclaimer: The above resources provide information consistent with the latest research regarding the subject area. Liberty University does not necessarily endorse specific personal, religious, philosophical, or political positions found in these resources.

Recommended Resources

American Psychological Association. Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (Current ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Clinton, T., et al. (2009). The quick-reference guide to marriage & family counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. ISBN: 9780801072246.

Dobson, J. (2011). Head over heels: How to fall in love and land on your feet. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. ISBN: 9781441224828.

Dobson, J. (2003). What wives wish their husbands knew about women. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House. ISBN: 9780842378895

Dobson, J. (2005). Five essentials for lifelong intimacy. Sisters, OR: Multnomah. ISBN: 9781414317403

House, H. W. (Ed.). (1990). Divorce and remarriage: Four Christian views. Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press Academic. IBSN: 9780830812837

Additional Materials for Learning

    1. Computer with basic audio/video output equipment
    2. Internet access (broadband recommended)
    3. Blackboard recommended browsers
    4. Microsoft Office

Course Assignments

Textbook readings and lecture presentations/notes

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in Module/Week 1.

Discussion Board Forums (4)

Discussion boards are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, the student is required to create a thread in response to the provided prompt for each forum. Each thread must be at least 400 words and demonstrate course-related knowledge (Dr. Dobson’s assigned works and/or the core text, as well as video/audio content). In addition to the thread, the student is required to reply to at least 2 other classmates’ threads. Each reply must be at least 200 words.

Structured Interview Paper

The student will locate a mental health professional or pastoral counselor actively involved in counseling divorced and remarried couples and blended families in the student’s local area. The student will prepare at least 10 questions for a 45–60-minute interview with the professional, and then summarize his/her findings in a 6–8 page summary (not including Title Page) in current APA style documenting the interview, including a copy of the questions asked.

Potential Questions:

  • From you experience, what are some of the most prevalent reasons couples divorce?
  • What are the most common challenges you see in the first three months following separation?
  • Do you recommend temporary separation as a technique in helping keep couples married? Why or why not?
  • What are the biggest adjustments couples have to make during separation? Divorce? Remarriage?
  • When and how do you tend to see the effects of divorce manifest in children?
  • What are the most difficult adjustments you see in two families coming together?
  • How do you counsel divorced individuals with kids to begin dating again? What do recommend for that process? What common mistakes do you see being made?
  • What is your personal theology of divorce and remarriage? How does it fit with what you see and experience in your practice?

Research Paper

The student will select a research topic related to Divorce, Remarriage, and Blended Families. Students will complete a minimum 10-page research paper in current APA format related to the focus of the course and course material. The paper should be a minimum of 10 pages in length (not including Title Page and References page) and follow APA guidelines, with at least 10 supporting sources from peer reviewed research/journal articles.

Quizzes (2)

Each quiz will cover the Reading & Study, Video, and Audio material for the assigned modules/weeks. Each quiz will be open-book/open-notes, contain 10 short answer questions, with no time limit to complete.

4-MAT Papers

Student will submit 4–5 page 4-MAT papers for Helping Children Survive Divorce, and for The Smart Stepfamily. The 4-MAT REVIEW system is a way of responding to readings that requires the learner to interact with new ideas on several levels. Detailed instructions and a grading rubric are available in Blackboard.

Course Grading

Course Requirements Checklist


Discussion Board Forums (4 at 50 pts ea)


Structured Interview


Research Paper


Quiz 1

(Love Must Be Tough)


Quiz 2

(Surviving & Thriving)


4-MAT Paper

4-MAT Paper

(Helping Children Survive)

(The Smart Stepfamily)






Late Assignment Policy

Course Assignments, including discussion boards, exams, and other graded assignments, should be submitted on time.

If the student is unable to complete an assignment on time, then he or she must contact the instructor immediately by email.

Assignments that are submitted after the due date without prior approval from the instructor will receive the following deductions:

  1. Late assignments submitted within one week after the due date will receive up to a 10% deduction.
  2. Assignments submitted more than one week and less than 2 weeks late will receive up to a 20% deduction.
  3. Assignments submitted two weeks late or after the final date of the course will not be accepted outside of special circumstances (e.g. death in the family, significant personal health issues), which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the instructor.
  4. Group projects, including group discussion board threads and/or replies, and assignments will not be accepted after the due date outside of special circumstances (e.g. death in the family, significant personal health issues), which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the instructor.

Disability Assistance

Students with a disability and those with medical conditions associated with pregnancy may contact Liberty University’s Online Office of Disability Accommodation Support (ODAS) at [email protected] for accommodations.  Such accommodations require appropriate documentation of your condition.   For more information about ODAS and the accommodations process, including how to request an accommodation, please visit Requests for accommodations not related to disabilities or pregnancy must be directed to the Registrar’s Office, which generally handles medical needs support.

If you have a complaint related to disability discrimination or an accommodation that was not provided, you may contact ODAS or the Office of Equity and Compliance by phone at (434) 592-4999 or by email at [email protected].  Click to see a full copy of Liberty’s Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy or the Student Disability Grievance Policy and Procedures.

Course Attendance

In an effort to comply with U.S. Department of Education policies, attendance is measured by physical class attendance or any submission of a required assignment within the enrollment dates of the course (such as examinations, written papers or projects, any discussion board posts, etc.) or initiating any communication with one’s professor regarding an academic subject. More information regarding the attendance policy can be found in the Academic Course Catalogs. Regular attendance in online courses is expected throughout the length of the term. Students who do not attend within the first week of a sub-term by submitting a required academic assignment (such as the Course Requirements Checklist, an examination, written paper or project, discussion board post, or other academic activity) will be dropped from the course. Students who wish to re-engage in the course are encouraged to contact Academic Advising to discuss their enrollment options. Students who begin an online course, but at some point in the semester cease attending, and do not provide official notification to withdraw, will be assigned a grade of “FN” (Failure for Non-Attendance). Students wishing to withdraw from courses after the official start date should familiarize themselves with the withdrawal policy.

Grading Scale

A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- F
940-1010 920-939 900-919 860-899 840-859 820-839 780-819 760-779 740-759 700-739 680-699 679 and below

For courses with a Pass/NP final grade, please refer to the Course Grading section of this syllabus for the assignment requirements and/or point value required to earn a Passing final grade.

Add/Drop Policy

The full policy statement and procedures are published in the Policy Directory.

Honor Code

Liberty University comprises a network of students, Alumni, faculty, staff and supporters that together form a Christian community based upon the truth of the Bible. This truth defines our foundational principles, from our Doctrinal Statement to the Code of Honor. These principles irrevocably align Liberty University’s operational procedures with the long tradition of university culture, which remains distinctively Christian, designed to preserve and advance truth. Our desire is to create a safe, comfortable environment within our community of learning, and we extend our academic and spiritual resources to all of our students with the goal of fostering academic maturity, spiritual growth and character development.

Communities are predicated on shared values and goals. The Code of Honor, an expression of the values from which our Doctrinal Statement was born, defines the fundamental principles by which our community exists. At the core of this code lie two essential concepts: a belief in the significance of all individuals, and a reliance on the existence of objective truth.

While we acknowledge that some may disagree with various elements of the Code of Honor, we maintain the expectation that our students will commit to respect and uphold the Code while enrolled at Liberty University.

Adherence to the principles and concepts established within facilitates the success of our students and strengthens the Liberty community.

The Code of Honor can be viewed in its entirety at


DBFA 610

Textbooks: Deal, R. The smart stepfamily: The seven steps to a healthy family (2014).

Dobson, J. Love must be tough: New hope for marriages in crisis (2007).

Hart, A. Helping children survive divorce: What to expect; how to help (1997).

Papernow, P. L. Surviving and thriving in stepfamily relationships (2013).


Reading & Study




Dobson: ch.1-4

Hart: ch. 1–7

Bible Readings

2 presentations

1 audio clip

Course Requirements Checklist

Class Introductions

DB Forum 1





Dobson: ch. 5–9

Hart: ch. 8–14

2 presentations

2 audio clips

4-MAT Paper: Hart

Research Paper: Topic Selection




Dobson: ch. 10–13

Papernow: ch. 1–2

Deal: ch. 1–4

3 presentations

Structured Interview



Dobson: ch. 14–17

Papernow: ch. 3–4

Deal: ch 5–8

1 presentation

1 audio clip

DB Forum 2

Quiz 1




Papernow: ch. 5–6

Deal: ch. 9–12

1 presentation

5 audio clips

4-MAT Paper: Deal



Papernow: ch. 7, 12–13

2 presentations

1 audio clip

DB Forum 3



Papernow: ch. 8–11

2 presentations

Research Paper



Papernow: 14–18

2 presentations

DB Forum 4

Quiz 2





DB= Discussion Board

NOTE: Each course week begins on Monday morning at 12:00 a.m. (ET) and ends on Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. (ET). The final week ends at 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Friday.