Variation in the magnitude of inbreeding depression (ID) among families may have important consequences for mating system evolution. Experimental studies have shown that such variation is a common feature of natural plant populations. Unfortunately, the genetic and evolutionary significance of family level estimates remains obscure. Almost any kind of genetic variation will generate differences in ID among families, and as a consequence, a non-zero variance in family level ID is not sufficient to distinguish genetic architectures with wholly different implications for mating system evolution. Quantitative genetic methods provide a means to extract more information from ID experiments. Estimates of quantitative genetic variance components directly inform questions about the genetic basis of ID and should ultimately allow tests of alternative theories of mating system evolution.