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This problem is addressed in ArcGIS 8.1 Service Pack 1. See the Related Information section to download this pack.
You can summarize based on a field by right-clicking the field in the table window and selecting Summarize. ArcMap will crash if you bring up the Summarize dialog box after adding a field to a joined layer in ArcMap.
To avoid this problem, add the field before joining. You may need to unjoin, add the field, and then rejoin.