Department of Human Development and Family Studies

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is widely viewed as a leader in the study of families, children, adolescents, and gerontology. The 19 tenure track and 3 clinical track faculty members conduct research on early childhood education and care, interpersonal relations, culture and diversity, health and wellbeing, military families, and bio-behavioral development.

Connection to the Land Grant Mission of Purdue.  HDFS has been integrally connected with Purdue Extension from its earliest beginnings in the early 1920s. HDFS maintains the land grant mission of Purdue by engaging in applied research and disseminating research findings and expertise pertaining to aging, families, parenting, school readiness, and child development to the citizens of Indiana via connections with human development and family educators housed in each county. 

External Funding.  HDFS has been the recipient of external funding from a variety of sources with yearly funding expenditures over the past five years averaging $6,069,554 (range $5,562,812 to $6,895,910). Representative of current funding includes: 

  • Development of a comprehensive, evidence-informed curriculum for education of children aged 0 to 5, led by Douglas Powell with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Research on aging and resilience funded by NIH to Elliot Friedman
  • The Military Family Research Institute, led by Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth with funding from a variety of federal and philanthropic sources
  • Development of mathematical skills for preschool children supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation to David Purpura
  • Evaluation of early childhood programs with funding provided by the State of Indiana to Jim Elicker

Graduate Program. The HDFS graduate program offers a PhD degree in Human Development and Family Studies that currently enrolls 25 students. This interdisciplinary curriculum and training focuses on the complex interplay of biological, developmental, interpersonal, and contextual determinants that protect and/or undermine the health and well-being of individuals and families. Faculty and students address developmental and family issues from infancy to late life. Our doctoral program prepares scholars within HHS and across the university to conduct rigorous and innovative research informed by sophisticated statistics and research methodology.

Undergraduate Program.  Each of the four HDFS majors culminates in an intensive applied capstone experience (i.e., internship, study abroad, student teaching, or research). Almost all (97%) of HDFS graduates report full-time employment or acceptance to graduate education within six months of graduation. Majors include: Developmental & Family Science allows for substantial student choice and specialization to support interests in research, further education, or a wide variety of career paths. Early Childhood Education & Exceptional Needs is a teacher licensure program focusing on children from birth through third grade including both typically developing children and children with disabilities. Family & Consumer Sciences Education is a teacher licensure program preparing students to teach human development, nutrition, personal finance, and other essential life skills at the middle and high school level. Human Services is a major designed for students interested in service agencies serving infants, children, families, and older adults. 

Ben & Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School (MCDLS):  The university nursery school was established in 1926 (the first in the state) and currently serves children from six weeks to five years within seven classrooms. The program provides a quality preschool education for the youngest members of the Purdue community while serving to enhance the learning, discovery, and engagement mission of Purdue. MCDLS provides practicum experience for HDFS early childhood students and affords students across the university (including engineering, pharmacy, psychology, and nursing) with opportunities to access preschool populations for their class projects. MCDLS also serves as a locale for research by departments across campus (e.g., nutrition, engineering) and provides opportunities for professionals across the state and country to learn best practices in early childhood education.  

Center for Families (CFF).  The Center for Families is a catalyst for integrating outreach, research, and learning activities that support families. It increases and enhances collaborations between campus partners and human service professionals, educators, employers and policymakers, corporations to bring research evidence to programs, policies, and practices that affect families’ lives. The center is home to the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI), which conducts research and engagement to improve the lives of military and veteran families in Indiana and across the country, and the Family Impact Institute (FII), which leads a national network of states engaged in delivering evidence-based education to state legislators to build capacity for family-centered policymaking. Each year, the Center for Families offers funding and experiential learning opportunities to support faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students in the pursuit of research related to family issues.  

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