A thoughtful, well-researched survey of the evolution of the American family. According to Mintz (History/U. of Houston) and Kellogg (Anthropology/U. of Houston), the radical difference between today's jumbled, often nonnuclear family and the perfect sitcom family of the 50's is only the latest in a series of drastic permutations the family has undergone since the colonialization of the New World. Beginning with the ""godly family"" of Puritan New England--a ""little commonwealth"" bound together as ""the fundamental economic, educational, political, and religious unit of society""--the authors show how the family has evolved in response to pressure from three sources: economic change; demographic change (especially the reduction of fertility within marriage and the gradual aging of the population); and the changing status of women. From the ""little commonwealth"" evolved the 19th-century conception of the family as a ""haven in a heartless world""; the early 20th-century idea of the ""companionate family""--which came to full bloom only after WW II; and today's radicalized family. A look at ""The Shaping of the Afro. American Family"" punctuates the basically mainstream-oriented (sensibly so) text. No real surprises here--the authors' thesis is simply comonsensical--but this is a serviceably readable history, well backed with over 50 pages of endnotes.