Human Development & Family Studies

The faculty, students, and staff of the Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) department at UW–Madison conduct and apply rigorous research, program evaluation, and policy studies that aim to strengthen the well-being of children, adolescents, adults, and families, and the relationships they share. Ranked among the top programs of its kind, our department is proud to train this field’s next generation of researchers, leaders, and practitioners.

Resources and areas of specialization

Heather Kirkorian

Dr. Heather Kirkorian, Department Chair

HDFS faculty include interdisciplinary scholars working across research, program, and clinical capacities to address some of the most pressing questions and possibilities in our field. Our areas of specialization include:

  • Black family resilience, Black fatherhood
  • Family financial instability
  • Developmental disabilities and family impacts
  • Parent emotional well-being and relationships
  • Early learning and play in the digital world
  • Family caregiving for ill and elderly relatives
  • Youth obesity and nutrition
  • Health-risk behaviors among adolescents and young adults
  • Parental incarceration impacts on children
  • Ancient therapies to treat depression
  • Romantic relationships across the lifespan
  • Mindfulness and compassion training interventions

Centers and labs

The School of Human Ecology also supports HDFS research and engagement through two centers housed in its building: the UW Child Development Lab, a child development and early learning program for young children and a teaching and research laboratory for university students and faculty, under faculty director Dr. Heather Kirkorian and executive director Dr. Amy Lee Wagner; and the Center for Child and Family Well-Being, which hosts the Prenatal to Five Initiative.

Affiliated labs include:

Partners and affiliations

In addition to collaborating with faculty in the School of Medicine and Public Health, School of Social Work, School of Education, Department of Psychology, and others, various faculty also hold joint appointments or affiliations with UW units including:

Degrees offered

Our department provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate level education in family studies and human development across the lifespan.


PhD, Human Development and Family Studies (PDF brochure)
Doctoral Minor, Human Development and Family Studies


BS, Human Development and Family Studies