College of Education and Human Development

Family Social Science

History of Family Social Science

The history of the Department of Family Social Science (FSoS) reaches back to the University of Minnesota’s original course offerings in 1884 and its commitment to the well-being of families across the state.

Family social science evolved out of the field of home economics. As the discipline broadened to encompass nutrition, apparel design, and family management, specializations increased, as did the need for research and scholarship to understand families as a social institution.

In 1967, the Home Management and Family Living Division became the Family Social Science Division, and in 1970, as part of a college reorganization, Family Social Science became a full academic department, integrating scholarly work with teaching and counseling. Research examined families from multiple perspectives, including social, psychological, societal, and cross-cultural.

The department’s scope and reputation grew as visionary leaders strategically aligned with national organizations, including the National Council on Family Relations, and established dynamic research partnerships with organizations locally. Faculty collaborated across departments to develop a program of teaching, practice, and research that legitimized the family as a subject for academic study.

The department attracted more students as master’s and doctoral programs in family social science were added in 1982. National studies and surveys of family scholars in the 1980s and early ‘90s acclaimed the Department for its programs training family theorists and researchers, as well as marriage and family therapists, publishing family theory and research, and in creating family life education materials.

The PhD specialization in couple and family therapy was among the first ten programs nationally to hold accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and currently is among only 20 programs that hold accreditation.

Today, the Department of Family Social Science continues to expand academic programs that are future-focused, comprehensive, and transdisciplinary. FSoS scholars not only discover new knowledge, they are committed to collaborating with families, communities, and agencies to identify challenges and create evidence-based solutions. Its multi-disciplinary focus in a research-intensive institution makes it distinctive and unique.