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Doctorate in Human Development and Family Science

The Human Development and Family Science PhD is a research doctoral program designed to promote breadth, depth and integration of knowledge in human development and family science. Doctoral students collaborate with faculty and other graduate students on research projects, which integrate the theoretical and empirical knowledge bases of developmental science and family science and investigate key processes associated with risk and resilience. Graduates develop into scholars who conduct high-quality basic and applied research, provide relevant instruction, develop effective interventions and contribute to the development of informed public policy that reduces risk and enhances resilience within individuals and among families across cultures and generations.



This 72-hour doctoral program can be done straight from a bachelor’s degree or after completing a master’s degree. The first 30 hours of the doctoral program confers an in-flight master’s degree in developmental and family science. Students can pick either a developmental science or family science option for advanced study.


Doctoral coursework includes:

  • Lifespan Development and Family Theory (6 credit hours)
  • Thesis or thesis equivalent project
  • Research Methods (6 credit hours)
  • Statistics and Analysis (9-11 credit hours)
  • Committee Approved Elective Courses (30 credit hours)
  • Dissertation research (15 credit hours)

 We prepare students for academic careers

Course information

Graduate Student Handbook


Research and Faculty

Our nationally known faculty are engaged in a cross section of collaborative research focused on risk and resilience. The department is home to the Center for Family Resilience, a community resource that translates faculty research about families. Faculty are successful in earning external grants and contracts that often fund graduate research assistantships.


Meet our faculty

Article: "Family Resilience: Moving into the third wave"

Co-Parenting for Resilience

Institute for Developmental Disabilities

College research initiatives



Applications are accepted once a year (fall admissions only) with a deadline of December 1st. 


To apply to the PhD in Human Development and Family Science, please submit the following:
Teacher and student

  • Graduate College application
  • Official academic transcripts (3.0 minimum GPA) for each university attended (even if only one course taken)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Resume/Curriculum Vita
  • Professional Statement: 2-3 double-spaced pages; Address the following questions and use clear headers for each question:
    • Why HDFS: What are your career goals, and how do you believe the PhD in HDFS will prepare you for that career?
    • Research Interests: What area(s)/topics would you like to most like to investigate during your doctoral program?
    • Fit: What three HDFS research faculty do you believe would best assist in your research development?
  • We recommend applicants identify and reach out to faculty who have research interests that are consistent with the applicant’s interests.
  • The HDFS Department is waiving the official GRE requirement for future admissions. Any scores uploaded by an applicant will not be included in the application review process.
  • If English is a second language, applicants must submit results for TOEFL or IELTS tests.
  • Applicants who wish to submit a writing sample may do so by uploading one as an “Additional Document.” Potential advisors may also request a writing sample prior to making an admission decision.

The review of graduate applications begins during the spring, followed by an informal interview process with faculty who may serve as advisor for the student. The department aims to make final decisions for admission by mid-March each year.


Graduate student resources 


Cost & Assistance

Students may be eligible for tuition waivers or graduate assistantships from the department. Currently enrolled students are also eligible for scholarships offered through the College of Education and Human Sciences.  


Assistantships and support


Financing graduate school 


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