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.

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