Purdue University Department of Human Development and Family Studies: A Brief History

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies took root in child management and family living courses that first appeared in the Department of Household Economics in the early 1920s. Later, the foundation was set for a department focused on children, families and their relationships when Purdue established the first university-based nursery school in the state in 1926, allowing students to get hands-on experience with child care and management.

In 1946, Purdue established the Department of Family Life to strengthen the then-School of Home Economics’ focus on child development and family relations. The department moved to its own building in 1959 — at that time known as the Department of Child Development and Family Life — and transferred into the new School of Humanities, Social Science and Education in 1962, later returning to the School of Home Economics.

In 1976, the department was renamed Child Development and Family Studies (CDFS) and expanded in the 1980s, causing many of its programs to scatter to locations across campus. Fowler Memorial House was renovated in 1994 to accommodate some of the CDFS programs, including the Purdue Child Care Program that opened in 1984 to help meet the needs of working and single parents. The Center for Families was established in 1993 to help improve quality of life for families, and seven years later, the Military Family Research Institute was created to address the issues military families face.

In 2011, after joining the College of Health and Human Sciences the year prior, the department was renamed Human Development and Family Studies to better reflect its mission and vision, and it moved into the new Bill and Sally Hanley Hall. During that time, Purdue’s two child care programs were combined and renamed the Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School.

Through its development, the Department of Human Development and Family Studies has become a leader in contributing to the well-being of individuals and families across all stages of life, training specialists at both the bachelor’s and doctoral levels.