Doctor of Philosophy in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS)

This degree prepares students to rigorously analyze and constructively address contemporary social issues faced by diverse children, youth, families, and communities. Graduates from our program pursue careers in education, research, private practice, and government.

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Students who enter the doctoral program without a master’s will complete one as the first part of their doctoral requirements. Students entering with a non-thesis master's will be required to complete a "thesis equivalency" paper within the first two years of their doctoral program.

Doctoral students may also complete a supporting program in "applied HDFS." This optional program prepares students to enter careers in administration, human services, social policy, international aid agencies, and government, as well as traditional careers in teaching and research.

Curriculum  Degree requirements



The HDFS Graduate Handbook details our departmental policies regarding student admissions, advising, degree requirements, employment, and evaluation of progress. We encourage students and advisers to consult this handbook for answers to common questions, when preparing to take qualifying and preliminary exams, and when preparing to submit theses or dissertations.

In addition to the HDFS Handbook, students and advisers are encouraged to consult the Graduate College Handbook, which describes University policy and procedures that apply to all graduate students, including those that govern assistantships. Also, the department has elected to use the Graduate College policy for formal grievances (informal grievances should be brought to the attention of the Graduate Program Director).



Download the following pdf and documents:

Evaluation of Graduate Student Progress

If you are an instructor or a TA your performance in that role will be evaluated at the end of the semester in which you performed this job. Here is the evaluation form that will be used: TA Evaluation Form


(* will be counted toward M.S. if entering without one)

It is uncommon for a course to be waived; all students are expected to meet all requirements. However, if a student enters with compelling proof that a given course would be redundant then they may request a waiver from the Director of Graduate Programs. This waiver would not reduce the number of required hours, rather it would allow the student to meet their waived course hours with a more appropriate class.

If for some reason a substantive course is not offered, then graduate students have permission to do the course content as an independent study with a relevant faculty member. However, this does not mean that a faculty member is obligated to enter into such an agreement. (January 29, 2016 HDFS meeting minutes)

Sample Curriculum

Year 1

Fall Course & Hours   Spring Course & Hours     
HDFS 590: Advanced Research Methods    4*  HDFS 594: Intermediate Statistics    4*
HDFS 500: Professional Development    1 HDFS 591: Qualitative Methods (Ethnography or Grounded Theory) 2    4*
HDFS 501: Human Development Theories2    4 HDFS 521: Family Theories3    4*
 HDFS 533: Community in American Society 3    4*  

Year 2

Fall Courses & Hours Spring Courses & Hours
HDFS 597: Advanced Statistics 4 HDFS 591: Qualitative Methods (Ethnography or Grounded Theory) 4
Substantive Courses (see list)  Substantive Courses (see list) 
Elective Courses (open) Elective Courses (open)

Subsequent Years

Take any remaining substantive courses (see list) and electives plus one more hour of HDFS 500 (Professional Development)

  • HDFS 599: Thesis Credits (8 are required for the M.S.) Take before completing the master's thesis
  • HDFS 599: Dissertation Credits (22 are required for the Ph.D.) Take before completing the dissertation


List of Substantive Courses

Choose 4 courses from the following:

Please note that some of the below courses are 2-hour and some are 4-hour. What matters is the number of substantive courses rather than the number of hours. Substantive courses are typically offered on an "every other year" rotation.

HDFS 503: Social-Emotional Development, 2 hours 
HDFS 505: Advanced Adolescence, 2 hours   
HDFS 534: Neighborhood Effects on Human Development, 4 hours     
HDFS 539: Youth, Culture, and Society, 4 hours 
HDFS 523: Ethnic Families, 4 hours   
HDFS 526: Intimate Partner Violence, 2 hours     
HDFS 527: Family Resiliency, 4 hours   
HDFS 528: Parenting, 2 hours   
HDFS 540: Gender and Sexuality, 2 hours   
HDFS 543: Ethnography of Urban Communities, 4 hours   
HDFS 570: Gender Roles in International Development, 4 hours   
HDFS 595: Substantive Seminars (e.g. "Families in Flux"), 2-4 hours 

MD/PhD Students: You are allowed to count one medical school course towards your HDFS substantive course requirement.