Family Science FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Family Science

Looking to dive deeper into what Family Science is and why it matters? Explore responses to some frequently asked questions to learn more about Family Science.

This content is also included in NCFR's elevator pitch guide, How to Explain Family Science to Anyone.

I still don't understand how Family Science is unique.

The main thing that sets Family Science apart is that it focuses on relationships and interactions among family members, and the positive and negative effects those relationships and interactions can have within families.

Family Science also focuses on a couple of other concepts that make it unique:

  • Prevention. Family Science often focuses on preventing problems before they occur, versus intervention where a problem already exists. Even if you are working with families and a problem already exists, it's still important to understand how to put measures in place to prevent the existing problem from happening again after it's resolved.
  • Strengths. Family Science tries to look at the strengths families already have and how to build on those strengths, whereas other fields might focus more on identifying and fixing problems.

How is Family Science different from other disciplines, such as...

  • Sociology? Sociology looks at how the broader society impacts groups of people (families being one example), and how people interact in society. Family Science looks at relationships and interactions among family members, specifically.
  • Psychology? Psychology focuses on individuals’ minds and behaviors, while Family Science is about relationships and interactions, specifically among family members.
  • Social work? Social work often focuses on working with people to address problems that already exist, whereas Family Science often focuses on preventing problems in families before they occur and on building on the strengths a family already has, rather than on “fixing” families.
  • Family and consumer science? Family and consumer science focuses on living and working well. Family Science originated in part from family and consumer science, but Family Science became its own discipline focused on families rather than the consumer pieces like nutrition or apparel.
  • Human development? Human development focuses on how people develop over their lives. Aspects of human development can be important to understand family relationships, though development alone does not explain family relationships and interactions. (The pairing of "Human Development and Family Science," often referred to as HDFS, has become common in academic units and degree program names given that the two subject matter areas fit well together in a practical sense.)
  • Marriage and family therapy? Therapists practicing marriage and family therapy often have a Family Science background or training. Marriage and family therapy is one profession rooted in Family Science knowledge.

What do you call someone working in Family Science?

‘Family Scientist’ is a universal term, often used by people working as researchers or university faculty. People with a Family Science background can work in many different careers with various job titles, so they often use their specific job title.

What kinds of jobs do people in Family Science have?

People with Family Science backgrounds can work in many types of jobs:

  • Professional practitioner jobs working directly with families — for example, parent educator, marriage and family therapist, case manager with a social service organization, and many more.
  • Research to better understand families
  • Teaching about families, either in the community or at a college or university
  • Policy jobs that shape policies affecting families

Explore more careers in Family Science.

What makes 'Family Science' a science?

People who conduct research in Family Science use the scientific method, just like other sciences. They ask a research question, collect and analyze the data, and look at the results to find the answer.

Findings from Family Scientists' research can often be used to directly benefit families. For example, if researchers find that certain techniques work for handling conflicts between a parent and child, a professional practitioner can work with families to use those techniques.

What is a social science?

Social sciences study why and how individuals or groups behave the way they do. Some examples of social sciences other than Family Science are communication, psychology, and economics.

What is a family?

There are different ways of being a family and thinking about what a family is, and there is no one definition of family. Different groups define family for their purposes, but those definitions can exclude people and don’t always match how people view who their family is. Family Science aims to understand and strengthen all families. A few NCFR articles about this:

Why is studying families important?

  • Our family often has a bigger influence on us than any other group. It's important to understand that influence so we learn how families can function at their best.
  • There are characteristics unique to families that you don't find in other groups of people.
  • Families are the building blocks of society, so healthy families help create a healthy society.