“what is family resource management and why is it important to


“What is Family Resource Management and why is it important to today’s American family?”

Goldsmith, E. B., & GOLDSMITH, E. B. (2003). Resource Management. In J. J. Ponzetti Jr. (Ed.), International encyclopedia of marriage and family (2nd ed.). Farmington, MI: Gale. Retrieved from 



from International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family

Resource management is the process in which individuals and families use what they have to get what they want. It begins with thinking and planning and ends with the evaluation of actions taken. Three fundamental concepts in resource management are values, goals, and decision making. Values such as honesty and trust are principles that guide behavior. They are desirable or important and serve as underlying motivators. Values determine goals, which are sought-after end results. Goals can be implicit or explicit. They can be short-term, intermediate-, or long-term. Decisions are conclusions or judgments about some issue or matter. Decision making involves choosing between two or more alternatives and follows a series of steps from inception to evaluation.

Through choices, individuals and families define their lives and influence the lives of others. The study of resource management focuses on order, choices, and control, and how people use time, energy, money, physical space, and information. As an applied social science, it is an academic field that is fundamental to our understanding of human behavior. “The knowledge obtained through the study of management is evaluated in light of its ability to make an individual’s or family’s management practice more effective” (Goldsmith 2000, p. 5).

Individuals and families have characteristic ways of making decisions and acting called their management style. Although similar styles are exhibited within families (such as a tendency to be on time or to finish tasks to completion), there are also wide ranges of styles within families making the study of management intrinsically interesting, especially from a socialization point of view. Why do such differences exist and how does the individual’s style mesh with that of the other members’ styles in the family?

Measuring devices, techniques, or instruments that are used to make decisions and plan courses of action are called management tools. For example, time is a resource and a clock or stopwatch is a management tool.

Resources can be divided up into human and material resources, assets that people have at their disposal. Material resources (e.g., bridges, roads, houses) decline through use whereas human resources (e.g., the ability to read, ride a bicycle) improve or increase through use. Human capital describes the sum total of a person’s abilities, knowledge, and skills. Education is one way to develop human capital. Related to this is the concept of social capital. The term social capital is gaining in importance in the family-relations field and management is considered part of a person’s or family’s social capital. As a dynamic concept social capital can be considered a resource imbedded in the relationships among people that individuals, groups, and communities create, in which they invest, and which can be used to provide or develop resources or facilitate social and personal well being (Bubolz 2002).

Conceptual Framework and History

Resource management has a long history and an interdisciplinary base borrowing from and contributing to such fields as economics, organizational behavior, anthropology, psychology, and sociology. The discipline was originally called home management—with an emphasis on work simplification and household efficiency—but since the postmodern period (beginning in the 1960s) the emphasis has been on viewing the family as a social system and resource management as one of the many functions of that system (Knoll 1963; Maloch and Deacon 1966; McGregor 2001). In recent years the most widely used term to describe the field is family resource management or more simply management, which will be a term used in the remainder of the entry. Although the family is recognized as the fundamental societal unit, it is recognized that management principles and techniques apply to singles as well as to families. Attention is also paid to the management styles and situations of different types of families besides the traditional two-parents-and-children configuration.

Management research studies are conducted worldwide and results are reported in journals and at conferences. Family functioning, time, and stress are common themes. For example, data-based studies have found that family resources play a critical role in the healthy family functioning of Korean immigrant families in the United States (Lee 2000). Multinational papers presented at the 1998 International Household and Family Research Conference held in Helsinki, Finland reinforced the importance of family resource management to the well-being of families including the pursuit of the ideal life (Turkki 1999; Fujimoto and Aoki 1999).

Several theories, most importantly systems and economic theories, influence the way management is taught, practiced, and studied. According to Deacon and Firebaugh (1988), the family’s values, demands and resources are defined as inputs to the system. A leading management theorist in the twentieth century, Beatrice Paolucci, was especially interested in how family systems interact with their various near and far environments, which is termed the human ecological approach. Paolucci along with her coauthors Nancy Axinn and Olive Hall wrote:

Things need not just happen in a family; they can be decided. The responsibility and the burden of choice are a particular attribute of humanness. The quality of human life and the prospect of the family’s continued survival within limited environmental settings depends, in large measure, on the decisions made in daily family living (1977, p. 1).

For a history of her life and contributions to family resource management see Beatrice Paolucci: Shaping Destiny through Everyday Life (Bubolz et al. 2002). Economic theory assumes that people seek to maximize their satisfaction through the decisions that they make. In economics, individuals are seen as rational and acquisitive. Management recognizes that although individuals want to increase satisfaction, they often behave in nonoptimizing, less than rational ways. Unexpected events or reactions to events may require adjustments to plans and actions.

Family resource management differs from the way management is taught in business schools. In colleges of business, the application is mostly to employer/employee relationships in nonprofit and for-profit organizations. The fields are alike in that both are concerned with productivity and decision making but in family resource management the examples are more likely to be of a personal, home-based, or family nature. However, it should be pointed out that there are several cross-over topics such as time management and balancing work and family life and cross-field collaborations are common.

Practical Applications and a Model of Managerial Action

Because management explores the workings of everyday life, it is both complex and practical. To show the interaction of various management components, a model of managerial action using the systems approach is given in Figure 1.

In the model, for example, demands and values lead to planning and the use of resources ending with met demands, achieved goals, and feedback. In Africa, where many regions suffer from drought and food shortages, individuals and families have to plan wisely and use resources well in order to incrase their chances of survival. In management, wants and needs are differentiated from goals. Wants are specific and temporary, such as craving a certain food. Needs range from basic physiological needs to self-actualization (Maslow 1954). Within a family there can be conflicting needs. People arrive at their needs through a complex subjective assessment based on their inherent motivations and their perceptions of the external world (Foxall, Goldsmith, and Brown 1998). In today’s fast-paced world, filled with competing demands, people do not have the time to carefully assess their needs or to plan effectively.

Situational factors, personality traits, and motivational forces affect plans. Individuals and families set standards within the context of existing demands and resource availability. Standards develop over time. People live in the present, but they are thinking about the future and developing plans based on their values and standards. “Planning is a thinking and information-gathering process involving a series of decisions. It is a process because formulating plans requires several steps, such as information gathering, sorting, and prioritizing; then, based on this information, the planner must decide which plan is most likely to succeed” (Goldsmith 2000, p. 125). Plans have purpose; they are taking the planner somewhere. To succeed, plans should be clear, flexible, appropriate, and goal-directed. People have primary plans and back-up plans. Implementing refers to putting plans into action. Evaluation is the end process of looking back, checking over, examining past decisions and actions and determining how they worked. Goal achievement should provide satisfaction.

Time, Work, Family, and Stress

Time use and the direction of human effort are integral to the study of management. Queen Elizabeth I said on her deathbed, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Time is generally considered the ultimate resource because it is a resource all people, rich or poor, share. In the discipline in the past there was debate about whether time is a “true” resource (Winter 1995).

As the Queen Elizabeth I quote shows we all share time but it is finite. Therefore, a critical management question is how do we make the best use of the time that we do have. One answer is through conscious control. In management studies, a person is trained to ask when confronted with competing activities, “What is the best use of my time right now?” Another question to ask is “Is the activity I am about to undertake consistent with my goals?” These questions address both quantitative time (measured units of time such as minutes and hours) and qualitative time (feelings about how time is spent). Time perceptions vary widely by individual and by culture. For example, being on time in most North American cultures means five or ten minutes before the agreed upon time or being right on time. In other cultures, being an hour late may still be regarded as being on time. Discretionary time is free time one can use any way one wants. Nondiscretionary time is programmed by others or set by schedules and appointments. Everyday life is a combination of both. Stress is often caused by not having enough discretionary time. Over-programmed time is a problem for children as well as adults.

Few people are immune from the difficulties of trying to balance work and family life. Most controversy centers around managing hours and responsibilities, but it is also about one’s priorities. Which is more important: work or family? When someone is asked to work overtime, this question becomes apparent. In workaholism, work is the most pleasurable part of life and family or personal life takes a back seat. On the other hand, procrastination is the postponement of work usually in favor of more pleasurable parts of family or personal life.

With improvements in technology, there has been a blurring of work and family roles and often less lag time. Email, cellular telephones, automatic teller machines, and the Internet have accelerated everyday life and have made people, information, and services more accessible. Work and family lives are becoming increasingly blurred and even may share the same physical space as one considers the growth in the number of home-based businesses.

The twenty-first century will be characterized by more family transformation and stress (McCubbin et al. 1997). Because the purpose of management is not only to describe problems, but also to present solutions, distress and fatigue are subjects of discussion in terms of what can be done to lessen them. Regarding getting more sleep, James Maas (1998) suggests getting an adequate amount of sleep every night, establishing a regular sleep schedule, getting continuous sleep, and making up for lost sleep. Another solution is the reestablishment of routines such as regular mealtimes as a way to simplify life. The simplification process may involve other steps such as pulling back on spending and building up more savings to provide for more leisure time in the future (Goldsmith 2001).

Family resource specialists strive to reach a stage called managerial judgment, defined as the ability to accept and work with change for the betterment of self and humankind. The ultimate goal of the management expert is the creation of a better tomorrow.


More could be said about managing human effort, environmental resources, and financial resources. This entry briefly touches the surface of a more than century-old discipline that affects every aspect of daily life. What management does is provide a framework, a way of looking at things that can be applied to a variety of situations. It is about life not just happening but happening in an orderly way. Humans are constantly seeking answers, making plans, and pursuing goals that bring desired results. Management provides insight into how this occurs. It is both simple and complex. Each day presents new challenges, new questions about how life should be and can be. Individuals are continually confronted with decisions to be made given scarce resources. This entry has endeavored to show the basics of the discipline and its application to everyday life. The greatest future challenge for the field will be the continued integration of management with other theories to address socially relevant issues as life becomes more complex and diverse.



  • Bubolz, M. (2002). “Family and Social Capital.” Panel presentation at Fourth Beatrice Paolucci Seminar: Personal, Social, and Corporate Responsibility in a Common World. East Lansing, Michigan State University.
  • Bubolz, M.; Axinn, N.; Mitsifer, D.; Nelson, L.; Wenberg, B. (2002). Beatrice Paolucci: Shaping Destiny through Everyday Life.Michigan State University East Lansing.
  • Deacon, R.; Firebaugh, F. (1988). Family Resource Management, 2nd edition. Allyn and Bacon Boston.
  • Foxall, G.; Goldsmith, R.; Brown, S. (1998). Consumer Psychology for Marketing. Routledge London.
  • Fujimoto, T.; Aoki, K. (1999). “What to Recognize from Everyday Life in Interaction of Man, Matter, Life and Environments.” In New Approaches to the Study of Everyday Life: Proceedings of the International Household and Family Research Conference, May 31-June 3, 1998, Helsinki, Finland.
  • Goldsmith, E. (2000). Resource Management for Individuals and Families, 2nd edition. Wadsworth Belmont, CA.
  • Goldsmith, E. (2001). Personal Finance. Wadsworth Belmont, CA.
  • Knoll, M. (1963). “Toward a Conceptual Framework in Home Management.” Journal of Home Economics 55: 335-339.
  • Lee, H. (2000). “The Effects of Family Resources and Social Support on Family Functioning Style among Korean Immigrant Families in the U.S.” Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences. 92(3):66.
  • Maas, J. (1998). Power Sleep. Villard New York.
  • Maloch, F.; Deacon, R. (1966). “Proposed Framework for Home Management.” Journal of Home Economics 58:31-35.
  • Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and Personality. Harper and Row New York.
  • McCubbin, H.; McCubbin, M.; Thompson, A.; Hans, S.; Allen, C. (1997). “Families Under Stress: What Makes Them Resilient?”Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences 2-11.
  • McGregor, S. (2001). Modernism and Post-Modernism Compared. Working paper. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Mt. St. Vincent University.
  • Paolucci, B.; Hall, O.; Axinn, N. (1977). Family Decision Making: An Ecosystem Approach. Wiley New York.
  • Turkki, K., ed. (1999). In New Approaches to the Study of Everyday Life: Proceedings of the International Household and Family Research Conference, May 31-June 3, 1998, Helsinki, Finland.
  • Winter, M. (1995). “Resource Management.” In Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family Relationships, ed. D. Levinson. Macmillan New York.

Gale © 2003 by Macmillan Reference USA

Goldsmith, E. B., & GOLDSMITH, E. B. (2003). Resource Management. In J. J. Ponzetti Jr. (Ed.), International encyclopedia of marriage and family (2nd ed.). Farmington, MI: Gale. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.apus.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/galemarriage/resource_management/0?institutionId=8703

International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family

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The second edition of the International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family revises and expands Macmillan’s 1995 Encyclopedia of Marriage and the Family, adopting an international, cross-cultural approach to such diverse topics as adolescent parenthood, family planning, cohabitation, widowhood, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, codependency and commuter marriages. It includes articles specific to countries and to religious traditions, examining the history of family life within these cultures and discussing how families have been affected by political and social change.

Editor(s): James J. Ponzetti Jr.Edition: 2ndArticles: 420Images: 1People: 31

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in Dictionary of Leisure, Travel and Tourism/leə pəsjuts/ plural noun entertainment hobbies, things you do during your free time, for relaxation or enjoyment …19


Despite the challenges facing families across time, the family remains the world’s oldest form of relationship, a universal phenomenon (Sokalski, 1994). For centuries, families have been organized as a basic unit of society. This social unit has continued to be maintained over time, and, until recently, the family unit was generally considered to be a private institution. The contemporary family is now, more than ever before, a political entity. Family values are emerging in campaign slogans, drawing increased attention to the importance of family units within the social framework of communities, locally, nationally, and globally. This surge of interest in the family unit has resulted in increased research, expanding our knowledge base of family functions and evolution over time.

Although family life does give individuals a strong sense of continuity, Skolnick and Skolnick (2005) call attention to the fact that the family is in transition. Emerging communications and technology capabilities have accelerated this transition. Families of the future will not only need to be aware of changes that are taking place, but they will also need the skills to adapt resource management to fit new realities.

Paralleling the changing social, political, and economic climates surrounding families are changes in the structure of families. Coontz (2000) points out that favored traditional family structures carry privilege, whereas Doherty (1997) speculates that, as a result of environmental changes, our current society may be the first in history that cannot clearly define the family. These complexities necessitate the need for ongoing education and evaluation about the ways families function.

The key concepts of family resource management include an interdependency of individuals, a dynamic environment, and a conscious effort to meet basic needs for all individuals within the family unit. Managing family resources has always been a process, requiring individuals to recognize that effective decisions cannot be made quickly and that the evaluation of those decisions is essential for future decisions.

Families cannot effectively manage resources without an awareness of their opportunities as well as a consideration of their limitations. They need to be aware that living in the 21st century presents numerous challenges to the family. Families will continue to consume large amounts of resources, be engaged in the global economy, and provide safety and security for its members. Each of these functions requires management. Thus, the concept of family resource management is imbedded in those three individual words: family, resource, and management.


Contemporary families are diverse in nature, reflecting the socioeconomic environments surrounding them. The idea that a traditional family exists, from which students can compare and contrast other nontraditional family units, is nonproductive to the goals and objectives of family service providers. It is necessary, however, to categorize and define families when public and private programs assess needs and determine qualified services for citizens based on that designation. Chapter 2 presents a framework for understanding contemporary family definitions and structures.

Joe and Rocia have three children. Joe recently lost his job. To qualify for financial assistance through various local and state programs, they must meet the criteria of those programs in terms of how a family is defined. Some programs may only be available to them if they are legally married. Other assistance programs may provide more resources if Rocia is unmarried. These discrepancies challenge ethical decision making and may result in a weakening of family structure. Some assistance may be available based on their household status regardless of whether they share a home. If Joe is not the biological father of the children, his assistance may only be based on what is deemed necessary for a single male.

In terms of family resource management, it is assumed that families are units where members strive to meet the needs of all members while maintaining that family unit over a period of time. Thus, families have both individual and group needs. Identification and communication of these needs are continual. To satisfy these needs, resources must be identified and secured. Money and material possessions are easiest to identify as important family resources; however, the human resources available among all family members are just as important, if not even more essential, to the family’s survival and maintenance.

The processes of identifying needs and securing resources are dynamic within a family unit. Situations arise in frequent, repetitive ways that allow many decisions to become subconscious and almost habitual. Family members shopping for a weekly supply of groceries may cruise down the store aisles identifying and purchasing an assortment of products with little deliberation. These products have been identified through previous decision-making processes; until family members decide that these basic products are no longer meeting their needs, they are habitual purchases. Other situations require more deliberation and information seeking. The working parent who is confronted on Monday morning with an ill childcare provider must find a specific resource to meet an acute need. The stress level in this type of decision is much higher because this decision impacts the family unit on multiple levels.


Humans consume and require massive amounts of resources for survival, physical growth, and personal growth. Basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and clothing are obvious. Other resources are necessary to facilitate education, community, and recreation. The study of family resource management considers both consumption of resources and the availability/expenditure of human resources by family members.

The identification of resources to meet specific needs is guided by culture, availability, and accessibility. Tap water quenches thirst, yet an individual may choose to buy bottled water for family drinking purposes. A single-family detached house may be preferred, but if apartments are the only choice available, a family may make do until other options surface. An Ivy League college may be a student’s choice, but if he or she does not meet the requirements for admission, another selection must be made.

As families identify needs, their focus turns to finding ways to fulfill those needs. The number of possible solutions will vary depending on the particular need. These solutions, however, always require resources. The larger the pool of resources, the higher the probability that needs will be met efficiently and effectively. In managing family resources, sufficiency is also an important consideration. Will family members accept a solution that just meets their minimum expectations? Old newspapers suffice for bathroom use, but not everyone would accept this choice. Because family needs are dynamic and ongoing, any one particular resource may prove useful on some occasions, but not even be considered at other times.

Families may substitute some resources for others depending on the situational variables. Lunch may consist of a peanut butter sandwich when time is limited but may be a multicourse feast when time is not an issue. Money is often substituted for time in resource selection. Fast food, airline travel, and lawn-care services are examples of this resource transfer or exchange. The complexity of individuals and families elevates the complexity of resource identification and selection when compared to resource management in the business setting.

Boomerang Commuters

In April 2011, FoxNewsInsider coined the phrase “Boomerang Commuters” to describe the growing trend of two-career, two-households, two-city family units. Creamer (2011) reported on this dramatic rise of commuter marriages in The Sacramento Bee.Current statistics suggest that almost three million American couples fit the definition of commuter couple: “Men and women in dual-career marriages who desire to stay married, but also voluntarily choose to pursue careers to which they feel a strong commitment. They establish separate homes so they can do so” (Rhodes, 2002).

Why has the number of commuter couples risen from around half a million couples in 1980 to this new high? Some believe that the economy has driven many couples to split to find jobs as the unemployment rates rose in the recent past. Others suggest that it may be more a sign of the rise of working women. Rates are higher among professional, academic and white-collar workers than in lower socioeconomic circles. In the past, the poor in society have endured long separations to find work. The new commuters, however, seem to be a phenomenon of education and relative privilege (Creamer, 2011). The average age of commuting spouses is 51, and the average length of marriage for commuting couples is 22 years (Bergen, 2010).

Marriages, and families within these commuter arrangements, face complex and unusual challenges in family resource management. While it may facilitate financial resource acquisition, separation and maintenance of multiple living sites can be mentally and physically demanding. The demographics of this group indicate that very young children are not part of the mix, but this age group is part of the “sandwich generation,” serving as support for their young adult children and their aging parents.

Weisser (2006) suggests three strategies to help commuter couples swing the dual reality. First, tap into any support employers might provide. Some may provide expense accounts for travel, meals, housing, and utilities to employees. If Internet access is crucial to job performance, the company may provide an allowance to the employee for such service. Second, use all relevant mileage plans—flights, car rentals, hotel charges, restaurants. Finally, be diligent when managing the finances within these living arrangements. Don’t forget to keep long-range financial plans in the picture.


The history of family sciences is closely linked to that of business management. Both fields emerged in academia at about the same time, and both began with efforts to facilitate efficient and effective use of resources. Many of the management theories applied to individual and family resource management stem from business management. Many of the human resource theories are supported by research in family science and other social sciences. Business management focuses on planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the use of resources to accomplish performance goals. The goal of any business is the maximization of this process. It is a conscious effort and a constant process. Choices must be made and evaluated continually.

Although the family is not a business, it does have many of the same goals that a business addresses. Management theories are explored from both the business and family conceptual frameworks in Chapter 3. Business decisions generally have a stronger hierarchical base and more tangible factors available in the decision-making process. Most family management activity begins with that same decision-making process, but family management exists on a higher personal level with more emotional, intangible types of factors to consider. The decision-making process is a major concept addressed and explored throughout this text.


There are many ways that individuals and families go about making decisions. Janis (1989) proposes the rational model, presuming that, in the process of making decisions, there are purposeful goals and objectives. Rational decision making involves searching for alternatives, assessing consequences, estimating risk or uncertainty, determining the value of consequences, and selecting the action that maximizes attainment of those desired objectives. Decisions that have long-lasting impact on a family unit would benefit from this type of structure. Selection of educational programs and disease treatment options are often approached within this type of framework.

Pfeffer (1987) proposes another model that draws from rules, procedures, and processes, rather than the effort to maximize values. The bureaucratic model relies on habitual ways of doing things and is appropriate only for low-risk and uncontested decision situations. Although this model is more appropriate for business decisions, there are some frequent, low-risk decisions that must be made by families. Grocery shopping, especially for staple items, often operates this way.

The political model of decision making (Pfeffer, 1987) produces outcomes that are related to the power of individuals within the group. This model recognizes that individuals within the unit may have differing interests and acknowledges that conflict is normal or at least customary. Although decisions made within this model are seldom perfect for all members, the acts of bargaining and compromising result in member support for the final decision. Decisions specific to family relocation are often reached using this approach. Although children are greatly affected by such moves, it is generally more of a negotiation among the adults where power becomes a crucial influence.

Photo 1.1   Technology enhances a family’s search for alternatives.


Source: ©iStockphoto.com/STEEX.

Realizing that family decision making may be served by any, all, or a combination of these basic models, it is necessary to create a flexible framework for analysis of a variety of individual situations. The five-step decision-making process is the framework chosen for this text. Although family decisions are not always methodical, they follow a general framework of need identification and clarification, identification of alternative resources available, analysis and comparison of those resources, selection and implementation of resources chosen, and post-implementation evaluation. This model also gives the family the tools for rational, bureaucratic, or political thought found in the other decision-making models. By analyzing these steps separately and then synthesizing them as a process, the learner can more fully understand the complexity and occasional unpredictability of family choices and behaviors.

The Decision-Making Process

  • Recognize existing need(s)
  • Identify alternatives to fulfill identified needs
  • Evaluate identified alternatives
  • Select and implement alternatives
  • Reflect and evaluate alternative selected


Families do not exist in a vacuum. Outside influences come into the family environment to change the way the family thinks and behaves. These influences come from history, culture, and the environment.

Historical Influences

Throughout history, there have been ideas and circumstances that have influenced the way families manage their resources. New ideologies and ways of thinking have impacted existing family behaviors. New childcare practices, new medical discoveries, and even changing marriage expectations may alter the way a family carries out its functions. Historical events also influence the family. Wars, recessions or depressions, terrorist attacks, and other events all have an impact on families. The most recent national recession and global financial crises have illuminated the vulnerability and the strengths of contemporary family structures in times of economic difficulties. The ultimate impact of unemployment on a dual-earner family unit has been very different than that experienced in earlier recessions where the sole-paycheck adult may have lost all earning potential. Families change as history evolves, reflecting and impacting the larger economic environment.

The history of family resource management has influenced the way a family manages today. The early Greek and Roman cultures left a wealth of information about family management that can be found in the writings of the ancient philosophers. The word economy comes from the ancient Greek oikos nomos, which means house and management. Hesiod (CA. 715 BCE) wrote, “You should embrace work-tasks in their due order, so that your granaries [grain storage] may be full of substance in its season” (Hesiod, 1999). The 13th century Church of England also left a legacy of instruction for management. As the church experienced a reform movement, more clergy were encouraged to speak out on marriage and family issues (Murray, 1987). One of the earliest recorded writings was by Robert Grossesteste, Bishop of Lincoln. This was written for his friend, Countess Margaret of Lincoln, after the death of her husband to help her manage his vast estate. He wrote,

And with the money from your corn, from your rents, and from the issues of pleas in your courts, and from your stock, arrange the expenses of your kitchen and your wines and your wardrobe and the wages of servants, and subtract your stock.” (Henley, Lamond, Cunningham, & Grosseteste, 1890)

In contemporary terms, he was suggesting how this new widow might balance her budget—income and expenses.

By the end of the 20th century, the world was changing at a rapid pace. Social mobility and invention would change the way many families managed. Although the Western family was still patriarchal, the Industrial Revolution forced men and women to move into different spheres of influence. Men gave their energies to their work, now outside the home, whereas women gained more power over the household. Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management (cited in Hughes, 2006) sold thousands of copies in England. Her ideas have been compared to modern small business management techniques. According to Mrs. Beeton, good management included setting an example for and giving clear guidance to the staff, controlling the finances, and applying the benefits of order and method in all management activities (Wensley, 1996).

In the United States, another reference during this time was Beecher’s (1869) The American Woman’s Home. This volume was written as a training manual for women in the duties of the home in the same fashion as training for other trades at that time. According to Beecher, a woman’s profession included

care and nursing of the body in the critical periods of infancy and sickness, the training of the human mind in the most impressionable period of childhood, the instruction and control of servants, and most of the government and economies of the family state. (p. 14)

The influences of science (ecology and biology) and technology (invention) in the home precipitated the Lake Placid Conferences in 1899 and 1909. The discipline of home economics or domestic science was developed as a result of these conferences.

Since the early 1900s, many changes have taken place in living conditions, equipment, and values and standards. During this time, the development of management also changed. The way in which today’s egalitarian family acquires and uses resources is radically different than in previous decades.

Environmental Influences

The resources that are available for use also influence family management. Some families may have a limited amount of resources available because of their geographic location or economic status. The needs of a family may not be met because necessary resources are not available. In other cases, if a resource is limited, the family may have to pay more to get that resource than if it were plentiful. The availability and accessibility of resources greatly influence how they are used. These factors also influence how resources are managed. More discussion about how resources influence family management can be found in Unit III.


When Uncle Sam Calls

What impact does military deployment of a parent have on a family? The United States has fought many wars in the past, but the most recent efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have disrupted families in ways that were not typical in past deployments. The majority of soldiers did not come through a draft of young men. In the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the average soldier spent less than a year overseas and was a young recruit or draftee. In Iraq, much of the burden has fallen on older reservists, National Guardsmen—family men and women (Skipp, Ephron, & Hastings, 2006). As the recent war winds down and deployed family members return home, the Arrendos’ experience will be common across the nation.

Photo 1.2   Family members serving in the military leave more than emotional voids behind them.


Source: ©iStockphoto.com/JaniceRichard.

The Arrendos (name changed for privacy) agreed to share their experience with our readers. Kathy and Mike were young professionals with two small children, ages 2 and 3, when Mike was called to duty. Kathy shares how her needs and resources changed during the course of her husband’s absence. Payne’s (1998) five resource categorizations are used as a framework for understanding.

Financial Resources

My husband’s income increased through deployment. He made more money as a major than he was making as a civilian. Our expenses changed, also, with his absence. He was not spending money and was no longer part of the budget for food, clothing, gasoline, and entertainment. I continued to work, and with both of our incomes and this decreased spending, we were able to accumulate a large savings account.

This situation is much different than in previous wars, when young men entered the service at much lower pay rates and, if married, their wives were usually not professional, career women, so money was often tight for those military families. Kathy shared her discomfort initially in this situation.

I met many military wives in a support group. They were in similar economic situations and their spending was unbelievable. I think I tried hard not to increase spending with our savings goal in mind. Some spending, I believe, is tied to emotions. When I was feeling angry about our situation, I spent money. As the savings account grew, I relaxed a little and spent a little more on myself—haircuts, dining out, clothing, and makeup. Other wives were remodeling their entire homes, buying new homes, and getting new vehicles. When my husband returned, we went on a bit of a spending spree, and we don’t feel the same financial pressures we did before we accumulated the savings account.

Not all military families experience such increased financial resources. However, without the draft, enlistment demands have changed the level of incentives currently offered.

Emotional Resources

Initially, I couldn’t focus or concentrate. How am I going to be a single parent? We always did everything together! When he left, it was almost easier because the anticipation of his departure was so emotionally draining. I went into automatic, doing what had to be done. I realize now that I did take some of my frustration out on my daughter. My mother recognized this early on and set me straight. I had relaxed control over both children, and I needed to reclaim it. Eventually, the kids and I were functioning normally, again.

At the 6-month point, I quit feeling sorry for us and changed my thinking. The hardest thing emotionally is the loss of companionship. I was very lonely and found myself grasping every opportunity to converse with another adult. I found myself drinking alcohol more frequently, not more, just one or two drinks each night.

His return was much more emotionally taxing than I anticipated. It took at least 3 months for the kids and me to get used to another adult making and enforcing some of the rules. I didn’t deal well with his disciplining of the children, and he seemed to be talking down to the children. It had been 18 months, and the three of us seemed to have grown and matured, but he returned at the same level he was at when he left. He resumed managing all bills and the checking account. It drove me nuts for a while! It seemed like when he had called me from over there almost every day, we really talked! He listened. At home he was returning to his old routine of avoiding conflict and controlling things. I was unwilling to go back to that relationship. We have had to work through a lot, and that probably should include counseling.

When asked to discuss how her relationships with family and friends changed during Mike’s deployment, Kathy noted several things that surprised her.

My father, who hates emotions, came with me to the “send off” and came to visit us every 3 months from his home in another state. Usually, on past visits, he wanted to be taken care of and entertained, but not during this time. He mowed, fixed things, winterized our home, and did everything that needed to be done. My mom watched the kids when I needed to be away for days at a time for work. I didn’t hear from my mother-in-law at all, but I didn’t before the deployment, either. No one from his family really stepped up to help. His little brother called more than usual, but never spent time with us. My siblings were supportive, my sister most. My brother did take my children to his home for 2 weeks over Christmas and made it an incredible holiday for all of us.

Friends … well, I really learned who my friends were. Most of those we believed to be friends before Mike left disappeared. Some we had never really done a lot with suddenly appeared and gave me tremendous support. When Mike returned, his old buddies started calling. I insisted that we had new friends, and he was understanding enough to change friendships, himself.

Mental Resources

At first it was difficult to go from two adults making decisions to one adult in a high-stress, emotional state solving problems. However, as time went on, I was more and more confident in solving problems myself, and I think that I actually grew and became more independent and better at decision making.

I became a very good time manager. I was forced to be more efficient. I think the hardest thing was being a working parent and wanting to spend as much time with the children as possible, but cleaning, mowing, laundry, cooking still had to be done. I simply decided to choose my battles. We ate out a lot, and we found more time to play together on the weekends.

Spiritual Resources

I am not a real spiritual person. I think through deployment you have to maintain a high level of trust and believe that our troops are well trained and that your spouse will make good decisions. I wasn’t able to even think about what if … I maintained a level of confidence that things would be OK and I had a greater appreciation for God. During this time, my 18-month-old neighbor was diagnosed with cancer. I couldn’t play the “poor me” card after that. I developed an ability to focus on the positives in life.

Although my husband is the religious member of my family, I continued to take my children to church each week. At first, it was nothing more than a hassle with a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old to watch and control. I got nothing out of the sermon. Over time, they became more manageable, and, although I did not receive support from the church, it was a nice quiet time to reflect.

Physical Resources

At first I was exhausted, but after about 6 months, my stamina improved. I did hit a wall at 12 months. I had had enough. I was frustrated and angry, and I wanted it to be over! We all stayed in very good health through this time. When the kids did get sick, I brought them to work or they went to a neighbor’s house. I felt neglectful, but I didn’t have a choice. Once I got sick, myself, and had to ask for help, but I actually was the most physically fit I have ever been during this time. Cooking for me and two little ones was easy. The kids and I walked every day.

Kathy and Mike did what had to be done and coped in the best ways available to them. Their resources expanded with increasing needs. Sources of support shifted and changed completely in some ways. They will never be able to return to the same relationships and decision-making style present before deployment. Time, circumstances, and priorities have changed their family unit markedly. The year following a service member’s return to civilian life will often determine the family’s ultimate adjustment.

The toll on families caught up in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be analyzed for years to come. Divorces in the military increased by 100% in 2004 (Skipp, Ephron, & Hastings, 2006). The army has spent millions of dollars on programming designed to positively enhance marital relationships of deployed men and women. All branches of the military have engaged in conscious efforts to strengthen support systems on both sides of the globe. Kathy appreciated this.

The army family support group meetings were helpful, and I really respected the army chaplains and their wisdom. It was a good place to air frustrations and anger, but it was only once a month.

Cultural Influences

Any study of individuals and families in the context of a global community could not ignore the enormous impact that culture and diversity have on the identification, use, and production of both material and human resources.

One cultural influence is family experience. When individuals marry, they bring with them a wide array of experiences from their own family of origin, including their unique cultural heritage, which ultimately influences their expectations for the new family. How their family managed resources will follow them into their newly formed relationship, and the two individuals will explore these experiences as they formulate their own unique way of managing resources.

Yuki and Eric have been married for 4 years. They are planning to begin a family soon. Eric announces that they must find a larger, two-bedroom apartment before a baby arrives. Yuki doesn’t understand this need. In her home country, Japan, it is not uncommon for infants to share their parents’ bed for the first few years.

Another important cultural influence on family resource management is worldview. Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961) developed a framework for comparing and contrasting the different value systems between and among different cultural groups. The assumptions underlying their work include the following:

  • There is a limited number of common human problems for which all people at all times must find some solution. Most families, at one time or another, must match needs and resources to feed, clothe, educate, and protect members.
  • Although there is variability in solutions of all the problems, it is neither limitless nor random, but is definitely variable within a range of possible solutions. Each family and each situation is unique; however, experiences have common factors between and among families.
  • All alternatives of all solutions are present in all societies at all times, but are differentially preferred. Choices made by any family at any given time may differ from those of others because of cultural expectations and beliefs. (p. 10)

As a result of these different value frameworks, they identified five distinctive orientations that exist within any particular cultural group, yet differ between groups. These orientations are human nature, man and nature, time, activity, and relational.

The orientation of human nature may be viewed by a cultural group as evil, a mixture of good and evil, or basically good. Often, cultural practices are based on these beliefs. Consider the judicial system. The practice of imprisoning criminals for certain periods of time with rehabilitative treatment suggests a culture that believes that humans are basically good but can be misled. Religions that believe in original sin purport human nature as basically evil, with possible salvation through ritual.

The relationship between humans and nature is an orientation that can be categorized in three perspectives. Humans can be subjugated to, in harmony with, or have mastery over nature. Refusal of medical treatment is illustrative of a subjugation orientation. Air-conditioning and heating systems are used by many to gain mastery or control over the weather elements. Today, emerging concerns over environmental quality and sustainability of natural resources have forced a reconsideration of harmony between man and nature.

Every cultural group must deal with all three time orientations—past, present, and future—to maintain existence over time. The preference or dependence on a particular time orientation separates cultural groups. To participate in a financial savings plan implies that an individual is preparing for the future. Investing four or more years to obtain a college degree is another example of future-time orientation. Cultural groups that devote a great deal of time to the study of and the continued practicing of past rituals, art forms, and doctrine are reflective of past-time orientation.

Photo 1.3   Family traditions draw heavily from the concepts of Worldview.


Source: ©iStockphoto.com/JaniceRichard.

The value placed on human activity is an orientation that also differs between cultural groups. Some focus on being or living only for the day. Others focus on becoming, searching and working for self-growth and improvement. A third orientation places more emphasis on accomplishments that are measurable by external standards. All three orientations may exist within any large group of people; however, the group as a whole shows a preference for one. Members who show evidence of that preferred activity are then deemed to be successful.

The last orientation identified to differentiate between cultures is that of human relations. Three different patterns emerge: lineal, collaborative, and individualistic. The lineal pattern is characterized by dominant group goals, a chain of command, and a commitment to maintaining the group over time. A collaborative pattern is reflected in the concept of a team. Someone operating from the individualistic pattern will place primary emphasis on personal goals and objectives and on personal autonomy.

How does this worldview framework impact family decision making? Each and every decision made by a family reflects cultural preferences at multiple levels. For instance, when a parent decides to participate in a college savings plan for his or her child, this decision reflects core beliefs that education is important, that sacrificing today for something that might come to be in the future is a worthy action, and that a college degree is an accomplishment viewed positively by the larger social group.

A human service professional operating from his or her own worldview will find that his or her ability to serve individuals and families functioning within another orientation is problematic. When an individual is devoted to collaborative relationships (i.e., family, gang, religion), he or she will not consider solutions that involve competitive actions or individualistic accomplishments. If a parent believes that children are inherently good or bad, behavior modification plans will be viewed as illogical. A family struggling for many generations with intense poverty may see no value in saving or planning for the future when surviving each day requires so much of its resource base.

As Payne (1998) states,

[T]he role of the educator or social worker or employer is not to save the individual, but rather to offer a support system, role models, and opportunities to learn, which will increase the likelihood of the person’s success. Ultimately, the choice always belongs to the individual. (p. 149)

Awareness and understanding of cultural differences or different worldviews provide the human service professional with increased options and heightened objectivity.

Table 1.1 Selection of Family Housing: Same Ages, Income, Location, and Educational Levels



Using the structured form below, analyze the following family decisions in terms of differing worldview perspectives:

  • A dual-career couple decides that the wife will leave the workforce until the youngest child enters middle school.
  • Your neighbor refuses to use weed killer on his or her lawn because it is harmful to the environment.
  • A 16-year-old high school student drops out of school to take a full-time job to help support his or her family during an economic crisis.
  • A high school graduate decides to attend a 4-year college instead of entering the workforce immediately.

Table 1.2   Worldview Applications



The study of families and behaviors of individuals and family units depends on research methods and disciplines that provide a variety of perspectives. The field of family studies integrates existing theory, new research findings, and cross-disciplinary works into a framework for understanding the complexities of family study. Using that framework, professionals are able to engage in further research or practical application of knowledge in the field. Although the following discussion illustrates a few specific disciplines that contribute to this knowledge base, several others are possible contributors over time.


In ancient Greek, the word psyche meant soul or mind, and logos was the study of something. Psychology, as a field, has evolved into an academic and applied field focusing on the study of the mind and behavior. In the applied sense, psychology also refers to the use of the knowledge accumulated through that study to mental illness and behavioral analysis. Psychologists study mental processes and behavior of individuals, alone or in a group, not on the group itself. Wilhelm Wundt opened the first psychological laboratory in 1879.


Sociology is the study of society, with a focus on the study of the social interactions of people, groups, and entire societies. This academic discipline emerged in the early 1800s and evolved through that century as struggles for global leadership emerged. Scientific methods were used to understand how and why groups come together and continue across time. From this inquiry, theories about social rules and governing structures give insight on why individuals are motivated to be a part of groups. In an applied form, sociological research benefits educators, lawmakers, administrators, families, and others who seek resolution of social problems and creation of public policy.

Social Psychology

The ancient philosopher Plato believed that humans organize themselves into groups and form governments to solidify their groups because they cannot achieve all of their individual goals alone (Goethals, 2003). Through the ages, students have pondered the question, how much of our behavior is determined by external constraints vs. internal drives? Triplett (1898) put social psychology into the realm of academic discipline by conducting studies that focused on the impact of other people on the individual. Allport’s (1935) textbook, Social Psychology, grounded the study of social psychology in scientific methods. Many studies have focused on the development of norms within groups and the transmission of those norms across groups—interpersonal influence.

Social psychology is a field devoted to understanding how individuals impact the groups they associate with and how groups impact their individual members. Research within this discipline includes studies of marriage, religion, and parenting, as well as adolescent behavior.

Cultural Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of humanity. The cultural branch of anthropology seeks to make sense of difference or variation among humans. Because culture is acquired through learning, people living in different, separate places or under differing circumstances will develop different ways of thinking about similar things. This belief is exemplified by the earlier discussion of worldview.

Although understanding the differences among cultures is important to understanding how families manage their resources, it is also important to this discipline to seek universalities among humans across cultural and geographic boundaries. Are beliefs and behaviors completely learned, or is there a biological, hereditary basis to them? Anthropologists have surmised that people adapt to their environments in nongenetic ways—through culture. Current concern for the global environment and international relationships has redirected study in this field to the tensions among cultures.


The study of economics is not only about business, but also about human behavior within existing structures of production, distribution, trade, and consumption of goods and services. As a science, it functions to predict and explain the consequences of choices made by consumers and producers. Economics is a quantified field of research depending on numerical methods of analysis.

Microeconomics studies individual agents, like households and businesses. Macroeconomics focuses on the economy as an entirety. Key concepts include supply, demand, competition, and pricing. The research and models derived from the study of economics help explain how families identify and evaluate resources in their decision-making processes.

Behavioral economics is an emerging field of study that focuses on application of scientific principles to human and social dimensions of decision making. Research questions seek to answer how consumer decisions impact pricing and the allocation of resources in a society.


The field of biology is the study or science of living things. Family resource management derives important information on reproduction, physical health, and safety from biological findings, and implements biological research methods and theories to answer questions about how the environment and humans interact. Genetics is an associated field that provides families with guidance when making important reproductive and health decisions. Medicine is also a related field that plays an important part in family decisions and resource allocation.

Professionals in family studies use multidisciplinary research methods and integrate research generated by all of these fields, which allows a multifaceted exploration of topics. For instance, if we want to understand maternal employment and its impact on the family, we can approach the question from multiple frameworks. Psychologists might focus on the emotional and cognitive impacts on family members—parents and children. Sociologists may consider the motivations that lead to the mother’s participation in the workforce and how social expectations influence that behavior.

Social psychologists may view the topic in terms of how employment impacts the female’s self-esteem or power base, or how females impact the working environment they occupy. Cultural anthropology might be more interested in how maternal employment participation varies between and among different cultures and across time. Economics would be interested in how maternal employment impacts resources available to families and how that, in turn, impacts their consumption. Another topic of interest to economists is the potential for increased production through more fully participating adult female labor pools. Biology might study the issue from a physical perspective. The spread of contagious diseases through on-the-job contact or within childcare centers might be of interest.

In combination, these disciplines provide us with a holistic view of family resource management. All are important to the study and understanding of family behavior.


The family unit has been and continues to be the basic unit of society. As such an integral part of the larger social system, the family is impacted by all social, economic, political, and environmental changes. Thus, the family is dynamic in nature, responding and adapting to change. To allow such flexibility, families must engage in the management process, using basic decision-making tools and accessing necessary resources to maintain over time.


  1. Why and when is it necessary to create limiting definitions of the family?
  2. Other than money, how many resources can you list that would be important in the management of families?
  3. How have culture and worldview influenced your decision to study family resource management?
  4. Individuals and families use the basic decision-making steps for even small situations. Trace your most recent eating experience through the process.
  5. Using the worldview framework in this chapter, determine your personal combination of the five dimensions.
  6. Marriage and divorce are two important topics in this field. How might researchers in economics and social psychology differ in the way they approach these topics? Psychology and sociology?
  7. Book : Tami James Moore & Sylvia M. Asay “Family Resource Management”
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