This opening chapter contextualises the debates the book addresses, which explore the contested terrain between ‘normal’ family troubles and troubled and troubling families. It elaborates the editors’ assumption that change and trouble are pervasive features of children’s family lives, with the experience of them and ability to deal with them influenced by both cultural and material resources. It discusses key contested concepts of children and families, change, challenge and troubles, identifying pertinent conceptual resources for these debates including e.g. concepts of vicissitudes, expectations, suffering and trauma. It identifies two conflicting directions of argument found in feminist and other research on families and its overlapping fields: first, ‘troubling the normal’, involving the naming of harms and injustices in previously taken-for-granted practices (such as domestic violence), and second, ‘normalising troubles’, involving questioning the pathologising per se of family change and diversity (including divorce and lone parenthood), identifying the value and risks in each approach and the tensions which arise from different positions. Finally it considers the politics of how definitions of normality and trouble emerge, are contested and become institutionalised.