How possible is it for the state to steer family values and relationships? How do we assess competing claims of harm and benefit from state action and inaction? What kind of engagement should we seek between the state and our personal lives? This collection debates the relationship between institutions of the state and families in all their diversity. Writing from a range of theoretical traditions and political perspectives, some contributors make a case for more or different state involvement and some for further disengagement. The evidence includes assessment of the interactions between the state and specific sectors of the population: separating couples; lone parents; retired people; black families; disabled people; pregnant teenagers and young people negotiating adulthood. The range of data and cross-nation-state comparisons between Australia, Britain, the USA and Nordic countries, gives readers the opportunity to come to their own conclusions.