Graduate Program

The Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Graduate Program provides training opportunities at the doctoral level for students interested in learning cutting-edge approaches to the study of individuals and families across the life span, the development and evaluation of prevention programs for individuals and families at risk, and the development and application of new methodological approaches for these areas. The HDFS Graduate Program was established in 1969 and has trained more than 400 graduate students who completed their doctorates in the department, and have gone on to leadership roles in academic and applied research settings.

The 2008 edition of U.S. News and World Reports: America's Best Graduate Schools, gave Penn State's HDFS program the highest rating among interdisciplinary programs and sixth among all developmental psychology graduate programs.

What is it like to be an HDFS graduate student? Take a look at the websites of these HDFS graduate students:

Reasons to consider HDFS for your graduate studies

  • HDFS is interdisciplinary.
  • HDFS focuses on the whole life span—from birth to old age.
  • HDFS examines development and families “in context”.
  • HDFS provides innovative perspectives on families.
  • HDFS emphasizes prevention approaches.
  • HDFS provides cutting-edge training in research methodology.
  • HDFS has a world-class faculty.
  • HDFS provides financial support for all graduate students.

Graduate Research Areas in HDFS

The graduate program is organized into several core areas. Most faculty fit into more than one area, and graduate students are expected to develop special expertise in two or more areas. Graduate training in HDFS offers students a tantalizing smorgasbord of opportunities. Each student makes different choices, and in doing so, defines his or her evolving professional identity.

Other Cross-Cutting Areas of Interest

Our graduate students have the opportunity to be involved in a wide range of studies led by faculty, and develop their own programs of research during the course of their studies. We have identified several cross-cutting themes that highlight the some of the opportunities for our students.

Examples of Graduate Student Work