Human Development & Family Studies

Dave Metler

Among the top of its kind nationally, the graduate program in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides challenging opportunities for advanced study, research and outreach. HDFS offers an interdisciplinary approach to development across the lifespan leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. Students who enter the PhD program without a masters degree complete their masters degree along the way. Those who are interested in a terminal masters degree are encouraged to apply to the Master of Science in Human Ecology Program. The HDFS program is served by a full-time faculty of 13 and additional affiliated faculty from other UW-Madison departments. Faculty have diverse research interests and are professionally active with strong records of national and international scholarship and service.

In addition to world-renowned faculty, students in the program can take advantage of the department’s many affiliated programs and Centers. These include SoHE’s Center for Child and Family Well-Being, the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, the Waisman Center, the Institute for Research on Poverty, and the Morgridge Center for Public Service. HDFS is also a co-sponsor of the interdisciplinary training program in Prevention Science which offers both a graduate minor and certificate in prevention science. Finally, the department has close ties to the state Cooperative Extension network which serves as an important link between campus and county-based Extension colleagues, stakeholders, partners, and the residents of Wisconsin.

Principles of Graduate Education

Our work with graduate students is oriented around three fundamental principles:

  1. Students benefit from the perspectives of multiple disciplines and an understanding of the social, cultural and historical contexts in which people develop. For this reason, our faculty come from diverse professional and disciplinary backgrounds and possess a wide range of experience and expertise. We also encourage scholarship that takes into account the larger social and cultural contexts in which people live, such as historical change, community, social class, ethnicity, and public policy.
  2. The application of knowledge to real-world issues is central to our program and consistent with the Wisconsin Idea of outreach and service. Hence, faculty and students direct their work toward finding solutions to the current challenges facing individuals, families, and communities. Many work closely with policy and community leaders – in Wisconsin and nationally – to gather, disseminate and apply scientific knowledge.
  3. Graduate training is most effective when students work closely with faculty to pursue programs of research and outreach that are tailored to their individual interests and aspirations. For example, students co-author scholarly articles with professors, give conference presentations and professional workshops, collaborate on research and evaluation projects, and work with community groups and policy makers to affect social change.

Courses

Linda Roberts lecturing

The program offers courses on development throughout the lifespan and across ecological settings. These courses focus on a range of topics, including risk and resiliency throughout the life span, competent child rearing, positive youth development, development in multicultural and policy contexts, adult development and relationships, adolescence, and aging and the family. Courses that address the applications of research to practice are also part of the curriculum. Recent offerings include courses in prevention science, family policy, youth policies and programs, and bridging the gap between research and practice.

Course Descriptions

Click here to read descriptions of recent and upcoming HDFS courses.

For information on all courses being offered at the UW–Madison, go to the Schedule of Courses. For catalog descriptions of all of HDFS graduate courses, please see the Graduate Catalog

Methodological Orientation

Reflecting the multidisciplinary orientation of the program, faculty and students employ a wide array of methods in their work. Faculty possess expertise in areas as diverse as longitudinal modeling, community-based research, interpretive interviewing, program evaluation, observational methods, survey methodology, action research, and ethnography. The program explicitly values both qualitative and quantitative methods and encourages students to become proficient in both.

Student Success

There is a high demand for professionals with expertise in human development and family studies. Regardless of whether students end up in academic or applied settings, they are prepared for a life of scholarship and service. In addition to faculty positions at universities and colleges, recent graduates have careers in government, human service agencies, educational and prevention programs, technical assistance organizations, and policy institutes.

Funding

There are a number of sources of funding for graduate students, including assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships. For additional information, please review information regarding the School’s Graduate Funding Opportunities. Information may also be obtained by contacting Eric MacKay, SoHE Graduate Program Coordinator, with any questions.

Doctor of Philosophy

The PhD curriculum is designed to provide advanced training in HDFS. Whether our graduates end up in academic or applied settings, we prepare them for work that includes independent research, outreach, and teaching. Students who are admitted to the Ph.D. program are expected to have completed a research-based Master’s thesis prior to admission, or to complete the requirements for our MS degree as part of their PhD curriculum. Student who apply to our PhD program with a Master’s degree that does not include an empirical thesis will need to complete a pre-doctoral research project prior to taking the doctoral prelim exam. PhD students must take a proseminar in HDFS and two courses in human development and family theory. Students choose additional HDFS graduate courses to fill out their major area of concentration. There is also a methodology core requirement of one course in advanced statistics and one course in advanced research methods. These advanced methodology courses are beyond those required for the MS. In addition, all students must complete 10 credits in a minor concentration area. Full-time students can expect at least three years of work after the requirements for the MS are met. Students take their preliminary exam after completing their required course work (usually at the end of their second year). This exam includes questions on theory, research methodology, and the student’s substantive areas. Upon completion of the prelim, the student must prepare a dissertation proposal. All students are required to complete a dissertation and defend it in a final oral examination. Within the PhD program, students may choose to focus on preparation for an applied career by tailoring their program to emphasize such areas as applied research, prevention science, family policy, program development and evaluation, community development, or public policy.