Department of Human Sciences

Human Development and Family Science

The purpose of the HDFS graduate program is to nurture independent scholars who approach the study of development and behavior of human beings within social contexts from multiple disciplinary perspectives. The training of HDFS graduate students thus encompasses many approaches and paradigms, but is integrated through instruction in systems and bioecological perspectives, which emphasize that individuals are embedded in social contexts and cannot be fully understood out of context, and that human development and adaptation influence and are influenced by multiple interconnected sets of factors (e.g., genes, family relationships, school, community, society). The HDFS program affirms the importance and value of diversity. Our research programs and curricula reflect our multicultural society and global economy.

Graduates of the HDFS program not only receive training in these general content areas, but also intensive training in research methods and statistics, and in areas specifically connected to their individual research interests under the direction of their advisors and other HDFS faculty. Students may also seek accreditation in Couples and Family Therapy (CFT) and receive training in clinical work with couples and families, and in specific approaches to evaluating the effectiveness of interventions through research. Graduate students also receive training and experience in teaching and mentoring. As such, graduates are well prepared to enter careers focused on research and teaching - whether in academic or other settings.

Key aspects of the program

  • Student-focused - Our program has few required courses so that students can tailor their training to create the program of study best suited to their needs.
  • Multidisciplinary - Our program has scholars from several disciplines, including psychology, sociology, criminology, and economics.
  • Systems perspective - Our program takes a systems perspective on human development, emphasizing the study of development in family, community, and societal contexts.
  • Research focused - Our faculty and graduate students publish their research in the top disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals.
  • Professional development - From our students' first semester, the graduate faculty help students develop the professional skills they need to be successful in graduate school. Our focus on professional development is evident throughout the curriculum, with courses and frequent forums on professional development topics including college teaching and the job market for PhDs.


  • Required courses
    • Weekly brown-bag seminar
    • Proseminar (introduction to graduate study)
    • Research methods + additional research methods and statistics coursework
    • Systems theory
    • Family theory
    • Adolescence/Emerging adulthood OR Child development
  • Elective courses


Novel resources available to HDFS graduate students

Couple and family therapy area of study

The Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) area of study offers doctoral students the opportunity to pursue curriculum that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). It meets the standards for AAMFT clinical membership, and is designed to prepare students to be clinical scholars and researchers. Students who pursue CFT accreditation follow a scholar/clinician model with a heavier emphasis on research and scholarship than on clinical work. Students who pursue the CFT accreditation are trained for careers in academia or research related areas; students are trained to train other clinicians, do research in clinically-related areas, and do clinical work.

For students who are primarily interested in conducting clinical work as licensed couple and family therapist, we recommend you pursue a degree in an accredited couple and family therapy masters program.

Couple and Family Therapy Clinic

The Ohio State University Couple and Family Therapy Clinic, located in Mount Hall, serves individuals, couples, and families in the University and greater Columbus communities. The clinic operates on a sliding fee scale. The clinic is also used for research purposes, and is equipped with one way mirrored observation and recording rooms.

Graduate interdisciplinary specialization in quantitative research methods

The Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization in Quantitative Research Methods is designed to provide advanced training in data analysis and quantitative research to students across Ohio State. A goal of the program is to expose students to "cross-disciplinary methodologies and research paradigms and complete an independent, advanced quantitative research project resulting in a paper suitable for submission for publication." This specialization gives students cutting edge training in quantitative research methods and is an excellent addition to a curriculum vitae (the academic equivalent of a resume).

Graduate interdisciplinary specialization in applied developmental science

The Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization in Applied Developmental Science helps students across a variety of disciplines to develop an understanding of basic developmental research and theory in a substantive area (e.g., reading, motivation), but also how development can be impacted by educational practices, policies, and programs.

Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy

The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy is a research laboratory dedicated to conducting high-quality empirical research on child development and early education. The center's affiliates are multi-disciplinary, bringing together individuals from diverse disciplines, including speech-language pathology, psychology, reading, special education, and elementary education. In the lab, the center's affiliates focus on answering questions for which answers will make direct and immediate contributions to educational and clinical practices with children and their families. The center hosts monthly colloquia as well as research and training opportunities that are available to students particularly interested in developmental science.

Institute for Population Research

The Institute for Population Research (IPR) is a multidisciplinary center funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The center encourages, organizes, and supports research and training in the population sciences, or the statistical study of human populations. The center focuses on health and population research, and one of its signature strengths is family demography -- the study of the ties that bind individuals into households and family units such as marriage, divorce, and parent-child relationships. Graduate students can become affiliates of the center, and as affiliates, they are able to apply for research space, travel funding, and graduate research assistantships, and are able to meet and interact with other demographers on campus as well as demographers from across the US who come to Ohio State as part of the IPR seminar series. Students are also able to participate in working groups and methodological workshops that IPR sponsors.

What our graduates say about our doctoral program

My experience in the HDFS department at OSU was fantastic! Graduate students are contributors to the research efforts in the department, which results in valuable mentoring relationships between students and faculty. I gained a wealth of skills related to project implementation, data analysis, publishing, and grant writing from working closely with a number of the esteemed faculty on various projects. During my time at OSU, I also took advantage of the wealth of courses available across campus, allowing me to expand my breadth of knowledge on particular methodologies and further develop a deep understanding of my area of scholarship. The opportunities for cross-disciplinary work at Ohio State are unparalleled. I am proud to be a Buckeye!
-Erika L. Grafsky, PhD, MFT, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development, Virginia Tech University

The four years of doctoral education/training in the Couple and Family Therapy program at OSU was intense yet extremely rewarding for me. Although my schedule was packed with school work and research projects, I always wanted to do more because HDFS was full of opportunities and resources. The department is very supportive of students' academic/career accomplishment and tries its best to provide help. Professors in HDFS are great role models of passionate, successful scholars and warm-hearted mentors. Looking back, I realize I would have not imagined myself being where I am now without the support and encouragement from the department. I've never regretted choosing OSU over other schools and am so proud to be part of HDFS Alumni.
-Hana Yoo, PhD, MFT, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Wheaton College

The HDFS graduate program at Ohio State provided me with a strong interdisciplinary foundation in developmental issues and systemic influences. I enjoyed being in graduate courses where I felt stimulated and challenged to think outside the box. The program's strong emphasis on collaborative research prompted me to connect with faculty and students with similar research interests both within and across departments. This not only gave me a well-rounded education but also helped me develop a network of colleagues that I continue to work with till date. As an HDFS graduate student, I had numerous opportunities and resources to conduct high-quality research, present at national and international conferences, and hone my teaching skills. Organizing and chairing the brown bag research seminar series was yet another way in which the HDFS department fostered my professional development and helped me prepare for a future career in academia.
-Atika Khurana, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Counseling Psychology and Human Services, University of Oregon