By Mark Poster
Today the family is being attacked and defended with equal vehemence. It is blamed for oppressing women, abusing children, spreading neurosis and preventing community. It is praised for upholding morality, preventing crime, maintaining order and perpetuating civilization. Marriages are being broken more than even before and being constituted more than ever before. The family is the place from which one desperately seeks escape and the place to which one longingly seeks refuge. To some the family is boring, stifling and intrusive; to others it is loving, companionate and intimate. And so it goes with the family, back and forth with no sign of agreement on the horizon. Just at a time when public concern for the family is widespread, social scientists have little theoretical clarity to offer. People are intensely interested in finding out how the family is faring, how it has evolved from the past and what forms it may take in the future. Yet social science does not have an adequate definition of the family, or a coherent set of categories from which to analyze it, or a rigorous conceptual scheme to specify what is significant about it. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate the weaknesses of existing theories of the family in the fields of history, sociology and psychology and to offer at least the beginnings of a more adequate theory.