Puritanism has a historical importance over a period of a century (followed by 50 years of development in New England). It changed character and emphasis almost decade by decade over that time.

The idea of personal Biblical interpretation, while central to Puritan beliefs, was shared with most Protestants in general. Puritans sought both individual and corporate conformity to the teaching of the Bible, with moral purity pursued both down to the smallest detail as well as ecclesiastical purity to the highest level. They believed that man existed for the glory of God; that his first concern in life was to do God's will and so to receive future happiness.

Puritans placed family at the center of their societies as an organization to facilitate their devotion to God. Based on Biblical portrayals of Adam and Eve, Puritans believed that marriage represented one of the most fundamental human relationships rooted in procreation, love, and, most importantly, salvation. According to Puritans, husbands were the spiritual head of the household while women were to demonstrate religious piety and obedience under male authority. Furthermore, marriage represented not only the relationship between husband and wife but also the relationship between spouses and God. Puritan husbands commanded authority through family direction and prayer; the female relationship to her husband and to God was marked by submissiveness and humility.