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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 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
Associate 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.

Take your PhD farther

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

Specialization in 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:

Graduate Minors

There are several graduate Minors relevant to HDFS graduate students. These include:

Research Centers

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

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.


Deadline to Apply: 
December 1 – to be considered for funding; rolling admissions until cohort filled, autumn semester start only. Applicants will be notified of admissions decisions beginning in late January and continuing until the cohort is filled.
Program Start: 
Autumn semester
Prerequisites/Pre-major Requirements: 
Bachelor's degree, minimum GRE scores of 152 verbal and 153 quantitative (Note: GRE will not be required for the 2022 cohort application)
Minimum Program Hours: 

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

PDF iconGraduate Handbook

View the Curriculum Sheet


Arya Ansari, PhD, Assistant Professor
Suzanne Bartle-Haring, PhD, Professor
Autumn Bermea, PhD, Assistant Professor
Michael Betz, PhD, Associate Professor
Cynthia Buettner, PhD, Professor
Xin Feng, PhD, Associate Professor
Gene Folden, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor
Stephen Gavazzi, PhD, Professor
Ashley Hicks, PhD, Associate Professor - Clinical
Ashley Landers, PhD, Assistant Professor
Sarah Lang, PhD, Assistant Professor
Keeley Pratt, PhD, Associate Professor
Kelly Purtell, PhD, Assistant Professor
Natasha Slesnick, PhD, Professor
Anastasia Snyder, PhD, Associate Professor
Beverly Vandiver, PhD, Professor
Deanna Wilkinson, PhD, Associate Professor
Jen D. Wong, PhD, Associate Professor

Faculty Research Interests


Department of Human Sciences
Human Development and Family Science

135 Campbell Hall
1787 Neil Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43210

Kelly Purtell, HDFS Graduate Studies Chair