Mission Statement

The Department of Human Development & Family Studies (HDFS) focuses its teaching, research, and outreach activities on the well-being and healthy development of individuals and families over the full span of life, including dynamic relations within the family as well as the family's interactions with other social institutions.

The Department's undergraduate program in Human Development and Family Studies presents a multidisciplinary understanding of individual and systemic development and change over the life span, from infancy to old age. Students are oriented to the broad social, cultural, and historical contexts within which families function, and how context is reflected in developmental variations related to issues of diversity such as family structure, race, gender, class, and ethnicity. Students also are exposed to the study of how social policies and various types of social services affect families, family members, and the wider contexts in which families reside. Undergraduate concentrations are available in: childhood and adolescence; family relationships, services, and counseling; family and society; social policy and planning; and adulthood and aging. Integrating classroom and service-learning education with opportunities for research and required professional experience, HDFS serves as a major educational and training facility for students interested in careers related to human service delivery.

At the graduate level, the Department awards an M.A. and Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies. Students are provided with advanced training in the theories and research methods necessary to pursue a scientific understanding of family members and family systems. Nationally accredited clinical training is offered in marriage and family therapy at both the Master's and Doctoral levels. Certificate and degree study in gerontology are coordinated through the Center on Aging and Human Development. The graduate degree from HDFS prepares students for a career in direct service provision, academic teaching and research, or government and non-profit agencies.Scientific research is carried out by the Department's faculty and advanced students in order to expand society's knowledge base about the normal and abnormal development and functioning of families and family members.

Current research activities address a broad range of topics including infants' emotional development and attachment to parents; cultural patterning of emerging behavioral systems; social functioning in day-care settings; school readiness; children's and adolescents' responses to parental warmth and neglect; the cultural organization of parents' belief systems; parent education; marital and Family Studies; spouse/partner violence; assessment and intervention with couples and families; effectiveness of supervision in marriage and family therapy training; adult patterns of coping with disease; and housing needs of the elderly. Methods of research are drawn from the multidisciplinary backgrounds of faculty and include observations in both field and laboratory settings, clinical and semi-structured interviewing, standardized measures of individual and family functioning, and archival analysis; both naturalistic and experimental paradigms are employed. Faculty research is supported by grants and contracts from federal and state agencies as well as private philanthropic foundations.

Outreach and service form an important third link in the Department's mission, not only as a mandated responsibility in the Land Grant tradition, but also as a critical arena of application. Theories developed in a research context meet their ultimate test in the field, and teaching by example new methods to promote the well-being of individuals and families brings our mission full circle. Outreach in HDFS is organized predominantly around its seven Centers for research and service. In addition, individual faculty are involved in consultation with a variety of educational and service institutions, all three branches of the state government, several state agencies, and national and international non-profit organizations.