“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
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.
See also: COHABITATION; DECISION MAKING; DIVISION OF LABOR; FAMILY LIFE EDUCATION; FAMILY SYSTEMS THEORY; FOOD; HOME ECONOMICS; HOUSEWORK; HOUSING; HUMAN ECOLOGY THEORY; POVERTY; POWER: MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS; PROBLEM SOLVING; RICH/WEALTHY FAMILIES; ROLE THEORY; SPOUSE ABUSE: THEORETICAL EXPLANATIONS; STRESS; TIME USE; WORK AND FAMILY
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ELIZABETH BEARD GOLDSMITH
© 2003 by Macmillan Reference USA