This work serves as an introductory reference guide to the growing body of literature on the history of the American family. Recognizing the family unit as the institution most central to any society, the volume covers a broad range of theoretical approaches which concentrate on relationships within the family and between the family and the wider community. Essays by specialists in the field of family studies profile the family both as a unit and as a group of individuals. Methods used to examine family dynamics are described, and trends, such as the increased individuation and changing economic priorities within the family, emerge from the data presented. The contributors approach the subject from both historical and comparative perspectives. The family is first studied chronologically from colonial times to the present. Attention then turns to sociological and ethnic groups such as the immigrant working class and African American families. Introductory pieces synthesize the findings found in the essays and describe the resulting patterns. The reference work, presented in this format, makes a large body of scholarly literature on the family easily accessible to both specialists and nonspecialists in the field.