White, a therapist with a firm commitment to the strengths of the family, offers this theoretical discussion of how family systems operate--why they break down, which patterns of failure recur, how therapy can identify and help troubled situations. Writing with a strong professional orientation, he suggests exercises in understanding family systems (genograms, role playing) and attempts to provide an evolution of the modern family as an explanation for today's much threatened balancing act. Dr. White views current trends with some alarm--he refers to ""the new hedonism""--and sees in society's premium on work the source of lowered esteem for parental roles. . . and of a constellation of family problems. Many of his comments--on child-custody reform or the shortcomings of daycare--are apt, and he uses pertinent quotations from family therapy pioneers for illumination and support: for example, Minuchin's characterization of a child's development of identity as learning a first and last name, or Bosyormenyi-Nagy and Spark's concept of ""invisible loyalties."" But his generalizations are often undeveloped and his perception of sexual roles is quite traditional even though he includes a chapter on the difficulties of one-parent and blended families that ends optimistically. Not quite rigorous enough for a professional audience or definitive enough for general readers, this is one man's family therapy, adequate but uninspired.