The American family has come a long way from the days of the idealized family portrayed in iconic television shows of the 1950s and 1960s. The four volumes of The Social History of the American Family explore the vital role of the family as the fundamental social unit across the span of American history. Experiences of family life shape so much of an individual's development and identity, yet the patterns of family structure, family life, and family transition vary across time, space, and socioeconomic contexts. Both the definition of who or what counts as family and representations of the "ideal" family have changed over time to reflect changing mores, changing living standards and lifestyles, and increased levels of social heterogeneity.
This carefully balanced academic work chronicles the social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of American families from the colonial period to the present. Key themes include families and culture (including mass media), families and religion, families and the economy, families and social issues, families and social stratification and conflict, family structures (including marriage and divorce, gender roles, parenting and children, and mixed and non-modal family forms), and family law and policy.