Human development and family studies (HDFS) focuses on processes of development across the lifespan at the individual level and within families. At the level of the individual, the emphasis is on the causes and correlates of developmental change and stability across the lifespan. Topics of study include biological bases of development, cognitive development (e.g., perception, learning, memory), social-emotional development (e.g., social competence, self-regulation, attachment styles), and development of and in social relationships across the lifespan.

Family studies is a broad, multidisciplinary area of inquiry that can be approached from different levels of analysis and with a wide range of methodological tools. Research addresses the study of family structures and the connection of family systems with other social structures (e.g., school, workplace, etc.), and their implications for changes in the nature and quality of family relationships. The field of family studies also focuses on the effect of family structure on the development of individuals within the family, as well as relationship dynamics among family members (e.g., parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, cross-generational relationships), and the influences of these dynamics on physical and mental development across the life course. 

On their way to the master's degree, students gain knowledge about typical (i.e., normative) and atypical development at the individual level and at the level of the family and related social institutions. This includes knowledge about development-promoting and development-hindering conditions, such as poverty, health disparities, or social disadvantages, and how risk and resilience factors play out over the life course. Students also acquire skills in the application and interpretation of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the rigorous design of research studies, and program planning and evaluation.

Graduates of this program enter careers in different human service and educational settings, including schools, behavioral health organizations, advocacy organizations, organizations serving older adults, and organizations focusing on social policy and public health issues. Graduates are equipped to assist with the design of intervention programs, the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data collected by such programs, and the dissemination of research findings to a broad array of audiences.

Learn more about the Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies, Plan A on the Department of Human Development and Family Studies website.

Effective Fall 2023

Required Courses
HDFS 500Issues in Human Development & Family Studies3
HDFS 524Family Studies3
HDFS 549Research Methods I3
HDFS 550Research Methods II3
HDFS 592Grant Writing--Research/Program Development3
HDFS 607Prevention Science Across the Lifespan3
HDFS 610Risk and Resilience3
HDFS 650Multivariate Research Methods I3
Selected Courses
Select 12 credits from the following:12
Early Child Development
Adolescent Development
Adult Development and Aging
Aging and the Family
Family Issues: Intimacy and Human Sexuality
Family Issues: Parenting
Seminar: Lifespan Socioemotional Development
Seminar: Lifespan Cognitive Development
Electives 1
HDFS 693Capstone Seminar3
HDFS 699Thesis3
Program Total Credits:42

A minimum of 42 credits are required to complete this program. 


Select enough 500-level or above elective credits with approval of advisor and graduate committee to bring the program total to 42 credits.