Current discussions of nursing theory identify the metaparadigm of nursing as focused upon person, environment, health, and nursing. Literature was reviewed to determine if historical and current sources supported the understanding that the family as recipient of care was a continuing nursing focus. The review supported the contention that the family unit has been an early, continuing, and ever increasing focus of nursing care. Public health nursing was the first clinical area to emphasize service to families, and this continuing emphasis is evident for this practice area. The conclusion is drawn that if the family is now deemphasized as a unit of analysis and care, an historically important focus will be abandoned.