Penn State University

Department of Human Development & Family Studies
Last Updated

HDFS offers an interdisciplinary approach to individual and family development across the lifespan. As one of the premier departments of its kind, we focus on child and adolescent development, adult development and aging, biological aspects of human development, family studies, intervention research, and developmental research methods. The family studies emphasis focuses on the human family: its evolution, history, and function and on relationships among family members throughout the life cycle. Students study communication patterns, power, decision making, problem solving, and intergenerational relations. Students study links between individual and family behavior and the wider community, for example, the relationship among parental employment, family dynamics, and patterns of child development. Students also learn about family and social, economic, and race influences; gender relations; and cultural variation in family structure. Family studies is integrated in teaching and research with the other areas of the department, for example, combining family and developmental perspectives.

Program Overview
Program Administrator
Dr. Douglas Teti
Department Emphasis
  • 25% Family Science
  • 25% Human Development
  • 25% Prevention Science
  • 25% Research Methodology
Campus Enrollment
Program Options
  • Undergraduate
  • Doctoral
Areas of Study
  • Child or Adolescent Science/Studies - Undergraduate
  • Development (Child, Human, or Family) - Master's
  • Development (Child, Human, or Family) - Undergraduate
  • Family Science/Studies - Master's
  • Family Science/Studies - Undergraduate
  • Older Adults (Gerontology) - Undergraduate
Department Address

119 Health and Human Development Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

Phone Number
Undergraduate Program
Undergraduate Director
Dr. Scott Gest
Undergrad Program Options
  • Adult Development & Aging
  • Child/Youth/Family
  • Lifespan
  • Lifespan Developmental Science
  • Lifespan Human Services
Undergrad Courses Offered
  • Introduction to Human Development & Family Studies
  • Honors Seminar: Concepts & Issues in Human Development & Family Studies
  • Human Development & Family Studies Intervention
  • Family Development
  • Communities & Families
  • Adult-Child Relationships
  • Resolving Human Development & Family Problems
  • Program Development in Family Relationships
  • Biocultural Studies of Family Organization
  • Family Relationships
  • Family Development in an Economic Context
  • Family Disorganization
  • Analysis of Family Problems
  • Sexual Identity, Family and Work Life Policy
  • Race and Ethnic Diversity in Families
  • Family Policy
Undergrad Comments

The undergraduate program offers a versatile major that helps to prepare students for a wide range of career possibilities in the growing field of human services professions. Students learn how people and families develop biologically, psychologically, and socially. They study individuals and families in their own and other cultures, and learn how workplace, community, social policy and culture affect family life. The major emphasizes the scientific foundation for understanding individuals and families. Its interdisciplinary approach draws upon an outstanding faculty of psychologists, sociologists, and demographers who help students develop knowledge for practical applications or as a base for graduate study.

Graduate Program
Graduate Director
Dr. Lisa Gatzke-Kopp
Graduate Courses Offered
  • Introduction to Family Studies
  • Family Disorganization
  • Seminar in Dysfunctional Patterns in Family Organization
  • Seminar in Family Relationships
  • Families & Socioeconomic Systems
  • Methods of Research in Human Development
  • Multivariate Study of Change & Human Development
  • Strategies for Data Analysis in Developmental Research
  • Measurements in Human Development
  • Research Methods in Developmental Processes
  • Women, Families, & Society
  • Poverty, Policies, & Child Development
  • Professional Issues in HDFS
  • Risk & Resilience
  • Work as a Context for Human Development
  • Observational Methodologies for Development
  • Parenting: Theory, research, and intervention
  • Biological Systems in Developmental Context
  • Prenatal and Infant Development
  • Child Development
  • Longitudinal Structural Equation Modeling
  • Childhood obesity
  • Adolescent Development
  • Development in Middle Age
  • Adult Development and Aging
  • Bio-Psycho-Social-Societal Consequences of Child Maltreatment
  • Best Practices in in Preventive Intervention
Doctoral Level
Doctoral Program Options
  • Human Development & Family Studies
Doctoral Comments

The HDFS Graduate Program provides training in theory and research related to the study of individuals and families over the human life span and across diverse populations and diverse settings. Through course work and apprenticeship experiences, students develop an understanding of multi-disciplinary and life span/life course orientations and prevention science approaches; the program also builds students' competence in research methods. As students progress through the program, they develop specialized expertise in two or more of the departments areas of concentration: individual development; family studies; prevention science; and research methods, and integrate these areas in their doctoral research.

CFLE Information

NCFR recognizes schools offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs with course work that follows the Standards and Criteria required for approval as a Provisional Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE). NCFR approval allows the school to offer their graduates the opportunity to apply for Provisional Certification using the Abbreviated Application process. The CFLE Checklist represents the courses that meet the CFLE criteria at that school. Students must complete all the courses on a checklist in order to qualify to apply for the CFLE designation through the Abbreviated Application process.