Family and Consumer Science or Home Economics, the study of individual and family resource and home management in schools at various educational levels. Previously limited to the domestic arts (cooking, nutrition, housekeeping, needlework, crafts, and hygiene), the subject now includes such topics as child development, family relationships, consumer education, institutional management, clothing and textiles, and interior design.
EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES
A home economics movement first appeared in the United States in the early 19th century. Its purpose was to prepare young women for their responsibilities in the home. Home economics was introduced as a formal subject in American education in the 1870s when it became a recognized course in the curricula of state agricultural colleges. By about 1880, cooking and sewing were being taught to girls in the public schools. In the early 20th century, federal funds were made available to secondary schools and universities to institute home economics programs. Courses in a family and consumer science, as the field is now called, are now taught in secondary schools, colleges and universities, vocational schools, and adult education centres. Participating students include both men and women. The subject matter has changed from the purely domestic arts to virtually all phases of home and family management, and the professional aspects of the field are emphasized. The American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, founded in 1909 as the American Home Economics Association, serves educators, administrators, and other professionals in the field.
Family and consumer science programs similar to those in the United States exist in other industrial nations, such as the United Kingdom and Canada. Students may prepare for advanced degrees and professional careers.
Students in the developing nations of Latin America, Asia, and Africa have only limited access to this field; their schools lack the funds, facilities, and personnel for teaching and research. This situation is slowly changing, however, through the efforts of international organizations, especially those associated with the United Nations.