Department of Human Sciences

PhD in Human Development and Family Science

The Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) PhD program develops graduate students into independent scholars who approach human development and behavior from multiple disciplinary perspectives. You'll receive valuable research experiences and mentoring relationships from a top-notch faculty while studying human development and family science at Ohio State. Additionally, there are vast opportunities to pursue your own research interests as you prepare for a career focused on research and teaching.

"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 all the courses available across campus, allowing me to expand my 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, 2011
Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech University


The doctorate program in Human Development and Family Science teaches graduate students about human development and behavior from multiple disciplinary perspectives and across several contexts, including families and neighborhoods. Students also receive intensive training in research methods and statistics.

Through instruction in systems and bioecological perspectives, a strong multidisplinary knowledge base in family science and human development and intensive research with faculty, our HDFS graduate students are contributing new knowledge that has the potential to improve the lives of children, adults and families around the world.

Faculty in Human Development and Family Science have developed a program that meets the needs of its students. The key aspects of the program include:

  • Student-focused - The program has few required courses so students can tailor their training to create the program of study that best meets their needs.
  • Multidisciplinary - The program faculty includes scholars trained across several disciplines who push students to explore new, innovative ways of conceiving research questions and conducting research projects.
  • Systems perspective - The program takes a systems perspective on human development, emphasizing the study of development in family, community and societal contexts.
  • Research-focused - Faculty and graduate students publish their research in the top disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals.
  • Professional development - From a student's first semester, faculty help students develop the professional skills needed to be successful in graduate school. Students' experiences are accentuated through courses and frequent forums on professional development topics, including college teaching and the job market for PhDs.

Students also get additional benefits from their studies in HDFS by supplementing them with licensure in Couple and Family Therapy, graduate interdisciplinary specializations, graduate minors and opportunities at several research centers.


Couple and Family Therapy - Students receive training in clinical work with couples and families as well as specific approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions through research.

Graduate Interdisciplinary Specializations

Ohio State offers specializations open to graduate students interested in developing an expertise around cutting-edge research and teaching topics. Relevant specializations include: aging, applied developmental science, college and university teaching, demography, global health, quantitative research methods, sexuality studies and survey research.

Graduate Minors

There are several graduate minors relevant to HDFS graduate students. These include: neuroscience, statistics and women's, gender and sexuality studies.

Research Centers

Graduate students also can take advantage of opportunities at research centers affiliated with Ohio State including:

  • Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy - This research laboratory is 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.
  • Institute for Population Research - The multi-disciplinary center is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 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.
  • Food Innovation Center - The center brings together members from all 14 OSU colleges to collaborate in teams that tackle food issues through these key initiatives: foods for health, biomedical nutrition, food safety, food strategy and policy, obesity and food security. Ohio State has collaborative, co-localized, expertise in medicine, human nutrition, business, law, policy, food science, crop and animal sciences, engineering, economics and more that can help develop comprehensive strategies to the most challenging food problems.

Career Paths

PhD graduates from Ohio State's Human Development and Family Science program are hired in a variety of professions at major universities and colleges including tenure-track faculty members. Graduates also are sought as clinicians, researchers and data analysts at research institutes, government agencies and hospitals.

Check out were some of our most recent graduates have landed.

Program Requirements

Deadline to apply: December 1
Program start: Autumn semester
Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree, minimum GRE scores of 152 verbal and 153 quantitative
Minimum semester hours to degree completion: 80
Coursework: Adolescent/emerging adulthood, child development, systems theory, family theory, research methods, statistics, proseminar, weekly brown-bag seminar, electives
Course requirements: Core courses (39 hours), supporting courses (35 hours), dissertation (6 hours)
Academic opportunities: Graduate associateships, scholarships, university fellowships

Graduate Handbook


Suzanne Bartle-Haring, PhD, Professor
Michael Betz, PhD, Assistant Professor
Cynthia Buettner, PhD, Associate Professor
Xin Feng, PhD, Associate Professor
Claire Kamp Dush, PhD, Associate Professor
Keeley Pratt, PhD, Assistant Professor
Kelly Purtell, PhD, Assistant Professor
Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, PhD, Professor
Natasha Slesnick, PhD, Professor
Anastasia Snyder, PhD, Associate Professor
Deanna Wilkinson, PhD, Associate Professor
Jen D. Wong, PhD, Assistant Professor

Faculty Research Interests


Department of Human Sciences
PAES Building, 1st Floor
305 W. 17th Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43210

Claire Kamp Dush
Program Chair/Associate Professor

Graduate Student Services