Human Families


Stevan Harrell

First Edition • January 8, 1999 • 624 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813336220 • $54.00 USD$62.50 CAN

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This detailed study maps the variations in family systems throughout the world, focusing on the ways families interact with their societies. Tracing the developmental cycle of families in a wide range of times and places, Stevan Harrell shows how family members in different societies must cooperate to perform various activities and thus organize themselves in particular ways.

Within six major divisions, the book describes families in nomadic bands, traditional African societies, Polynesian and Micronesian societies, native societies of the Pacific Northwest coast, preindustrial class societies, and modern industrial societies. Within each group, the author’s copious examples demonstrate the variation from one family system to another. His case studies are clearly illustrated with a unique set of diagrams that allow comparison of complex groups and of family processes extending over a generation. Scholars and advanced students alike will find this ambitious book an invaluable resource.


Stevan Harrell is professor of anthropology at the University of Washington.

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