Human Development and Family Studies

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are required for admission. [The requirement to submit GRE scores is temporarily suspended for Fall 2021.] Entering students should have some course work in social sciences, such as developmental and family science courses from psychology or sociology programs; and foundational courses in research methods and statistics. At the discretion of the program, students not meeting these requirements may be provisionally admitted with limited deficiencies to be made up concurrently with their graduate work.

Students with appropriate backgrounds will be considered for admission for fall semester only. The best-qualified applicants will be accepted up to the number of spaces that are available for new students. The program does not admit applicants for the terminal master's degree.

Degree Requirements

Master of Science (M.S.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

Students who enter the graduate program without a master’s degree must complete a master’s degree en route to the Ph.D. For the Master of Science degree, a minimum of 31 credits at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level is required, with at least 18 credits in the 500 and 600 series combined. Students are required to complete the following:

Required Courses
HDFS 501Human Development Across the Lifespan3
HDFS 503Human Development Intervention: Analysis of Theories and Approaches3
HDFS 525Introduction to Family Studies3
Research Methods
HDFS 516Methods of Research in Human Development3
HDFS 519Methods of Statistical Analysis in Human Development3
Methods Lab
HDFS 518Applied Statistics Laboratory1
Substantive Field
A minimum of 9 credits of course work (400 and 500 level) in their substantive field, 6 of which must be in HDFS (excluding HDFS 596 independent study)9
Culminating Experience
HDFS 600Thesis Research6
or HDFS 610 Thesis Research Off Campus
Total Credits31

The thesis must be accepted by the advisers and/or committee members, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a thesis defense. Course work completed for the HDFS master’s degree at Penn State can be applied to satisfy the degree requirements for the HDFS Ph.D.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

For the Ph.D., a minimum of 42.5 credits at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level is required. Students are required to complete the following:

Required Courses
HDFS 501Human Development Across the Lifespan3
HDFS 503Human Development Intervention: Analysis of Theories and Approaches3
HDFS 525Introduction to Family Studies3
HDFS 590Colloquium (Professional Development Orientation) 11
HDFS 515Professional Issues in Human Development and Family Studies 21.5
Research Methods
HDFS 516Methods of Research in Human Development3
HDFS 519Methods of Statistical Analysis in Human Development3
HDFS 523Strategies for Data Analysis in Developmental Research3
HDFS 526Measurement in Human Development3
Methods Lab
HDFS 518Applied Statistics Laboratory1
Electives18
A minimum of 6 additional credits in methodology
A minimum of 6 credits in non-methodology courses.
Total Credits42.5

All doctoral students must pass a qualifying examination, a comprehensive written and oral examination, and a final oral examination (the dissertation defense). To earn the Ph.D. degree, doctoral students must also write a dissertation that is accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Dual-Titles  

Dual-Title Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies and Clinical and Translational Sciences

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

HDFS doctoral students interested in having a degree that reflects advanced training in the design, analysis, interpretation, implementation, and dissemination of clinical prevention/intervention programs aimed at improving human health across a range of contexts and developmental stages may apply to pursue a dual-title Ph.D. in HDFS and Clinical and Translational Sciences. The dual-title program is applicable for students pursuing academic careers in the area of basic research focused on processes that can be targeted through intervention practice, the development or improvement of intervention programs, or the science of translation and dissemination; or for students pursuing non-academic careers related to public health, policy, service delivery, cost effectiveness or cost-benefit program evaluation. The CTS dual-title complements the expertise students in HDFS acquire in individual development across the lifespan, contextual processes that influence individual development (communities, schools, families, workplace) and may be a target for intervention, a context for providing an intervention, or a potential impediment to effective service delivery of an intervention. 

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in HDFS and the Graduate School before they can be admitted to a dual-title degree program. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may note their interest in their applications to HDFS. Students admitted to the HDFS program will be admitted to the dual-title program in Clinical and Translational Sciences upon the recommendation of a faculty member affiliated with the dual-title. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the CTS Bulletin page. Students must apply and be admitted to the dual-title degree program prior to taking the qualifying exam.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the Ph.D. in HDFS. In addition, students pursuing the dual-title Ph.D. in HDFS and Clinical and Translational Sciences must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title Clinical and Translational Sciences Ph.D., listed on the Clinical and Translational Sciences Bulletin page.

Students’ Qualifying Examination committee for the dual-title degree must fulfill composition requirements for HDFS, and at least one of the committee members must hold Graduate Faculty status in Clinical and Translational Sciences. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both HDFS and Clinical and Translational Sciences. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a dual-title doctoral degree student must either be chaired by a faculty member holding appointments in both HDFS and Clinical and Translational Sciences, or be co-chaired by two faculty members who each represent one discipline.  The Ph.D. committee will oversee the Comprehensive Exam, which must meet the requirements established in the HDFS department, as well as requires the demonstration of expertise in an area deemed relevant to Clinical and Translational Sciences by the Committee chair or co-chair.

Ph.D. candidates must complete a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research on a topic approved by the CTS program; specifically, one that “translates biomedical discovery into applications with the goal of improving human health”. Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Dual-Title M.S. and Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies and Demography

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

This program is designed for students who want to integrate Population Studies (including such foci as fertility, marriage, cohabitation, labor force participation, mortality) with the study of human development and family studies.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in HDFS and the Graduate School before they can be admitted to a dual-title degree program. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may note their interest in their applications to HDFS. Students admitted to the HDFS program will be admitted to the dual-title program in Demography upon the recommendation of a Demography Program faculty member in HDFS. Ph.D. students must apply and be admitted to the dual-title degree program in Demography prior to taking the qualifying exam.

Additional admissions requirements are listed in the Admissions Requirements section of the Demography Bulletin page.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the Ph.D. in HDFS. In addition, students pursuing the dual-title Ph.D. in HDFS and Demography must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title Demography Ph.D., listed on the Demography Bulletin page.

The qualifying examination committee for the dual-title degree will be composed of Graduate Faculty from HDFS and must include at least one Graduate Faculty member from Demography. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both HDFS and Demography. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the chair and at least one additional member of the student’s Ph.D. committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty in Demography. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. The Demography faculty members on the student's committee are responsible for administering an examination in demography that constitutes a portion of the comprehensive examination of the doctoral student in the dual-title.

Ph.D. candidates must complete a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education in both HDFS and Demography. In order to earn the dual-title Ph.D. degree, the dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).

Dual-Title Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

HDFS doctoral students interested in having a degree that reflects interdisciplinary training in social and behavioral neuroscience as relevant to the domains of research expertise within HDFS (e.g. integrating neuroscience techniques and perspectives to understanding individual development across the lifespan, effects of contextual environments e.g. families, schools, work, on physical and mental development, development and assessment of prevention programs, and application of advanced statistical methods for the analysis of neuroscience data), may apply to pursue a dual-title Ph.D. in HDFS and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience.

Social and Behavioral neuroscience reflects the study of how brain development and function influence, and are influenced by, social environments and human interaction.  The dual-title Ph.D. program provides students with additional training in the neurobiological foundations of brain function in order to enable them to pursue innovative interdisciplinary research with intellectual sophistication.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in HDFS and the Graduate School before they can be admitted to a dual-title degree program. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may note their interest in their applications to HDFS. Students admitted to the HDFS program will be admitted to the dual-title program in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience upon the recommendation of a Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Program faculty member in HDFS. Students must apply and be admitted to the dual-title degree program in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience prior to taking the qualifying exam.

Additional admissions requirements are listed in the Admissions Requirements section of the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Bulletin page.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the Ph.D. in HDFS, listed above. In addition, students pursuing the dual-title Ph.D. in HDFS and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Ph.D., listed on the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Bulletin page.

The Qualifying Examination committee for the dual-title degree will be composed of Graduate Faculty from HDFS and must include at least one Graduate Faculty member from Social and Behavioral Neuroscience. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both HDFS and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a dual-title doctoral degree student must include at least two members of the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the committee representing HDFS is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience, the member of the committee representing Social and Behavioral Neuroscience must be appointed as co-chair. It is expected that the outside member of the Ph.D. committee serve as the second Social and Behavioral Neuroscience representative.  Exceptions (e.g. having both Social and Behavioral Neuroscience committee members from within the home department) must be approved by the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Steering committee.  The Social and Behavioral Neuroscience representative on the student’s Ph.D. committee will develop questions for and participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination.

Ph.D. candidates must complete a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and their education in both HDFS and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience. In order to earn the dual-title Ph.D. degree, the dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).

Dual-Title Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies and Social Data Analytics

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

HDFS doctoral students interested in having a degree that reflects interdisciplinary training in an array of tools, techniques, and methodologies for social data analytics, while maintaining a close association with HDFS, may apply to pursue a dual-title Ph.D. in HDFS and Social Data Analytics.

Social data analytics is the integration of social scientific, computational, informational, statistical, and visual analytic approaches to the analysis of large or complex data that arise from human interaction. The dual-title Ph.D. program provides additional training with the aim of providing scientists with the skills required to expand the field of social data analytics, creatively answer important social scientific questions, and communicate effectively with both academic and nonacademic audiences.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in HDFS and the Graduate School before they can be admitted to a dual-title degree program. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may note their interest in their applications to HDFS. Students admitted to the HDFS program will be admitted to the dual-title program in Social Data Analytics upon the recommendation of a Social Data Analytics Program faculty member in HDFS. Students must apply and be admitted to the dual-title degree program in Social Data Analytics prior to taking the qualifying exam.

Additional admissions requirements are listed in the Admission Requirements section of the Social Data Analytics Bulletin page.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the Ph.D. in HDFS. In addition, students pursuing the dual-title Ph.D. in HDFS and Social Data Analytics must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title Social Data Analytics Ph.D., listed on the Social Data Analytics Bulletin page.

The qualifying examination committee for the dual-title degree will be composed of Graduate Faculty from HDFS and must include at least one Graduate Faculty member from Social Data Analytics. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both HDFS and Social Data Analytics. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a dual-title doctoral degree student must include at least one member of the Social Data Analytics Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the committee representing HDFS is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Social Data Analytics, the member of the committee representing Social Data Analytics must be appointed as co-chair. The Social Data Analytics representative on the student’s Ph.D. committee will develop questions for and participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination.

Ph.D. candidates must complete a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education in both HDFS and Social Data Analytics. In order to earn the dual-title Ph.D. degree, the dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.

Courses

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Course List

Learning Outcomes

  1. Know. Graduates will demonstrate an understanding of core theories and methods related to lifespan development, family process, and prevention science.
  2. Know, Apply/Create. Graduates will demonstrate skills in statistics and research methods with an emphasis on selecting and applying methods in conjunction with theory specific to their area of study.
  3. Know, Think, Communicate. Graduates will demonstrate a mastery of the literature in their research area and an ability to integrate and communicate knowledge across at least 2 core department areas.
  4. Communicate.  Graduates will communicate, in both written and oral formats, the importance and relevance of a research topic as well as the implications research results have for the field.
  5. Apply/Create, Think, Communicate. Graduates will demonstrate the ability to develop independent research questions to be addressed empirically, conduct the empirical analyses, and convey findings in a manner suitable for dissemination to the field.
  6. Professional Practice, Think.  Graduates will comply with standard ethical regulations regarding the conduct of research, knowledge of ethical guidelines regarding the analysis and publication of scientific research.

Contact

Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Douglas Michael Teti
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) Charles Geier
Program Contact

Christa Sherie Kreps
115 HHD Bldg
University Park PA 16802
csh5007@psu.edu
(814) 863-8001

Program Website View