Courses in "child management" and "family living" first appeared in the Department of Home Economics in the early 1920s. When a University-based nursery school was established in 1926 (the first in the state) to provide hands-on experience for students, the foundation was in place for a department dedicated to children, families, and their relationships. In 1946, the Department of Family Life was established. Its name changed to Child Development and Family Life in 1956, then to Child Development and Family Studies in 1976. In July 2011, the department changed its name to Human Development and Family Studies to better reflect its mission and vision.

The department moved to its own building in 1959 and transferred into the new School of Humanities, Social Science, and Education in 1962. The department returned to the School of Home Economics in 1974. Expansion within the department required a number of its programs to be located throughout campus in the 1980s. Fowler Memorial House was renovated in 1994 to accommodate some CDFS programs, including the Purdue Child Care Program that opened in 1984 to help meet the needs of working and single parents. In 1993, the Center for Families was established within the department to help improve the quality of life for families. Seven years later, the Military Family Research Institute was created to address quality of life issues for military families.

In the summer of 2011, the Bill and Sally Hanley Hall was completed and the two child care programs were combined and renamed the Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School. The department moved into the new building along with the Military Family Research Institute and the Center for Aging and the Life Course.

Traces of CDFS: A Partial History of the Department of Child Development and Family Studies 1946-1986 by Richard K. Kerckhoff (Download PDF)


  • 2015: The Family Impact Institute moved its headquarters to the Center for Families
  • 2011: Name changed to Department of Human Development and Family Studies; moved into the new Bill & Sally Hanley Hall; combined the two child care programs and renamed the Ben & Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School
  • 2008: Family and Consumer Sciences Education major moved to HDFS with support from the College of Education
  • 2006: Purdue Child Care Program renamed the Ben & Maxine Miller Child Learning Center
  • 2001: Record set in external grant fund awards (nearly $7 million)
  • 2000: Military Family Research Institute established
  • 1994: $3 million renovation of Fowler House completed for CDFS programs
  • 1993: Center for Families established
  • 1985: Programs expanded to facilities on Russell Street
  • 1984: Purdue Child Care Program opens
  • 1980: Family Research Institute established
  • 1976: Name changed to Department of Child Development and Family Studies
  • 1974: Department returned to School of Home Economics
  • 1964: Purdue's Marriage Counseling Center moves to the department, eventually leading to the establishment of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program
  • 1962: Department transferred into the School of Humanities, Social Science, and Education
  • 1960: First PhD awarded
  • 1959: Department moves to new Child Development and Family Life Building
  • 1956: Name changed to Department of Child Development and Family Life
  • 1946: Department of Family Life established
  • 1926: Purdue Nursery School established

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