University of Vermont

Human Development and Family Studies
Last Updated

This program examines the ways people grow and develop, form relationships and families, and learn to cope with the common and uncommon events of life. The program integrates developmental and ecological systems perspectives. Students learn basic and applied concepts of human development and acquire skills in working with individuals and families of different ages and backgrounds in a variety of settings. Field experience is required of all students.

Human Development and Family Studies is also available as a major concentration for students in the Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Special Education, and Physical Education licensure programs, and as a minor available to students across the university.

Program Overview
Program Administrator
Larry Shelton
Program Options
  • Undergraduate
Areas of Study
  • Development (Child, Human, or Family) - Undergraduate
Department Address

208 Colchester Avenue
Mann Hall Room 208
Burlington, VT 05405-0305
United States

Undergraduate Program
Undergrad Program Options
  • Human Development and Family Studies - Major
Undergrad Courses Offered
  • Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies and Academic Service-Learning
  • Human Development
  • Family Context of Development
  • Human Relationships and Sexuality
  • Social Context of Development
  • Interrogating White Identity
  • Theories of Human Development
  • The Helping Relationship
  • Field Experience
Undergrad Comments

Our interdisciplinary perspective makes HDFS a distinctive major. You will take courses in the behavioral and social sciences, the humanities, physical and biological sciences, and multi-cultural education.

These liberal studies provide you with the vital knowledge and perspectives you need to fully appreciate the complex interaction of individual psychology and biology, social relationships, families, communities, societies and cultures.

The introductory block includes four core courses in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). The first, “Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies and Academic Service-Learning” (HDFS 001), provides majors with an introduction to the discipline and practice of HDFS, with special emphasis on preparing students for more advanced course work and professional practice. The other three courses in the introductory block introduce students to core topics in the field, including individual development across the life span: “Human Development” (HDFS 005), “Family Context of Development” (HDFS 060), and “Human Relationships and Sexuality” (HDFS 065). These courses also introduce students to typical experiences, changes and challenges at different points in the life course and to factors that influence individual development, such as gender, race and social class. These introductory courses are designed to examine how questions are pursued from a human development perspective, how they relate to everyday life, how knowledge in the discipline is constructed, and the types of skills necessary to both acquire and appropriately use this knowledge.

The intermediate block builds upon the introductory block through the next set of four professional course requirements. In HDFS 161, students are offered a deeper introduction to and opportunity to analyze critically the major social institutions and cultural contexts that affect human development. HDFS 141 focuses in depth on White identity and the context of privileging whiteness. The remaining two courses in this intermediate block introduce students to major theories of development used to help us understand individual development in context (HDFS 189) and to the HDFS profession through the study and practice of essential helping relationship skills and ethical practice (HDFS 101). Both courses also provide students the opportunity to apply developmental theories to practice.

The advanced block consists of a series of advanced seminars and a six-credit field experience. All majors take at least three advanced seminar courses selected in consultation with an advisor. The field experience is the final professional requirement and serves as a capstone senior year experience. Taken for a minimum of six credits and typically completed over the course of one semester, students engage in direct field work (for a minimum of 12 hours per week) and related academic work (approximately 6 hours per week) focusing on deepening students’ knowledge, understanding, and ability to apply human development and ecological perspectives to direct practice. Students choose a placement from a variety of local agencies. Field placement sites have included legal aid, the court system, battered women’s shelters, centers for abused and neglected children, city and state government agencies, public and private schools, group homes, rehabilitation centers, local business and industry, childcare settings, hospitals, senior-citizen centers, and other human service agencies and social justice organizations.