This paper analyses research undertaken in Spain on the sociology of the family. A set of intellectual and cultural condi- tions at the end of the 19th century suggested that there would be a rapid growth of this area of specialisation. Nevertheless, the disci- pline did not become institutionalised despite the efforts of Adolfo Posada, who had taken the initiative to formalise its status. Other factors which should have encouraged developments in this field such as the debate on the role of women in society, the survey of the Ateneo de Madrid of 1901 or the profound legal changes introduced by the Second Republic in fact made little impact. Although the emergence of empirical sociology at the end of the 1960s is related to the study of the Spanish family, it is in other fields of sociology where advances were more marked. With the death of Franco in 1975 and the legislative and social changes which followed, the sociology of the family acquired greater vigour, although many gaps remain to be covered by research. © 1996 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.