This book has two aims: (1) to make a sociological analysis of the family which will contribute to an understanding of its origin, structure, and functions; (2) to select from what reliable data are available those factors that are likely to be of some practical help to young folk who are seeking guidance in the choice of a marriage partner and in the necessary adjustments of marriage and family life. Perhaps such a double aim is ambitious, but one may be forgiven more readily for aiming too high than for aiming too low.
The author is not concerned with the old fight over the division of responsibility between "pure" and "applied" science. In every conference of teachers of the family course the point is raised that students do not want the course to be wholly theory; they are everywhere demanding that it be intensely practical, for they have many personal problem's on which they want help. Hence, there is no inclination on the part of the author to apologize for the more practical aspects of this work; rather, the apology should come from the fields of sociology and psychology for the paucity of scientific research in marriage problems, which makes available so little tested knowledge that can be offered to students. For this reason, there appears all through this volume an emphasis on the need of more and ever more research.
The question of method in such a volume is a perplexing one. Because the study of the family gives opportunity for observing, on a small scale, practically all the basic social processes found in society, it is easy for the sociologist to become so absorbed in his analysis of these processes that he neglects the more practical applications for which the student-- sometimes with too little appreciation of the foundational value of theoretical analysis--is looking. There are two possible methods: (1) One might set forth such fundamental social processes as competition, conflict, accommodation, etc., and study family life from these concepts as points of departure. (2) One might point out and treat systematically the usual (and some unusual) interactions involved in courtship, marriage, and family life, treating the basic social processes only secondarily as they occur in the interactions mentioned. In the former method, the framework of sociological theory is emphasized; in the latter, marriage and family relationships are dealt with in experiential form and sequence, with a minimum of sociological theorizing as such. The latter method has been followed in this book.