A rigorous critique of theories of the family--historical, sociological, psychological--which attempts to provide the framework for a more workable theory. Prof. Poster (History, University of California at lrvine) faults historians like Peter Laslett for concentrating on surface issues, such as family size, instead of more essential ones--those relating to emotional patterns. He examines the writings of select theorists (Freud, Erikson, and the American family therapists; Marx and Engels; Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School; Parsons, Levi-Strauss and the French psychoanalyst Lacan), dismissing the weaknesses (Erikson's claims of universality) and retaining the strong points. In an involving chapter, he demonstrates the dissimilarities in family structure and function of four European models, and, throughout the book, offers pertinent observations with a strong contemporary accent. His overall purpose is to construct a broader definition of the family, one which can embrace historical and cultural variations, account for age and sex hierarchies, and attend to child-rearing practices. His suggested theory would rest on a revised Freudian foundation but would also build on patterns of everyday events and the relationship of the family to society: in industrial societies, especially, the importance of non-kin should not be overlooked. Ultimately, Poster would prefer a family reflective of contemporary trends toward elimination of age and sex hierarchies; he cites the communal Kibbutz practices as nearest the form, a debatable example in view of Hazleton's countering evidence in Israeli Women (1977). An intellectually demanding effort for serious history readers, and an interesting complement to Lasch's Haven in a Heartlett World.