This book was first published in 1987, offering a masterly review and synthesis of the available literature on family life in western societies. This book presents a distinctive approach to family sociology, focusing on two related questions: Why did we have the kind of family life we did when we did? and why did we have the kind of sociology of family life we did when we did? Goldthorpe employs a doubly historical perspective in which both 'family life', as opposed to 'the family', and sociological thought about family life, are alike seen as processes in time and in relation to each other. He draws on earlier sociological studies which he uses as historical evidence both for more recent changes in family life and for the evolution of sociological thought on the family. Meticulous in presenting both sides of controversies in family studies, and forthright in taking a clear position on all of them, Goldthorpe challenges many widely held preconceptions about family life. The book assumes little previous knowledge of sociology, and is easily accessible to students and other readers interested in understanding this fundamental aspect of human experience.