Family and Human Development, PHD

At a Glance: program details

Enjoy a flexible model of training with renowned faculty who provide professional opportunities. Specializations are available in social and emotional development, measurement and statistical analysis, and diversity science.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Family and Human Development

The PhD program in family and human development is devoted to the study of families, children and youth. The program's research, teaching and service have direct meaning in the lives of children and adults and for their families and communities.

The faculty share a common commitment to high-quality research that both increases the basic understanding of human and family development and has the potential to contribute to the improvement of the lives of children and families.

Applications open September 1st and are due by December 1st to begin the program the following fall. Admissions made for the fall semester only.


The Ph.D. program in Family and Human Development is designed to train researchers in developmental and family science. Students take core courses in family sciences, human development, research methodology, statistics, and diversity. The aims of the program are to train students to become researchers with an area of specialization in Family and Human Development. Graduate students are expected to develop competencies in research methods and in theoretical orientations relevant to their area of study.

A minimum of 85 hours is required.

Requirements and Electives Hours
Core courses 25
Elective courses 42
Research (thesis) 6
Dissertation 12
Total 85

Courses and Electives

Training in Family and Human Development involves coursework in theory, research methods, statistics, diversity, and areas related to students' own interests or specialization. The program of study is developed in collaboration with one's doctoral advisor/mentor. The program follows a mentorship model of training. Students work closely with faculty members to develop research skills through involvement in projects.

Additional Information

Sanford School Graduate Student Financial Support

The Sanford School is dedicated to supporting our graduate students. As such, we provide many different funding opportunities to our graduate students. 


Currently, the programs in family and human development and sociology have several teaching assistantship (TA) and research assistantship (RA) positions. These positions require that recipients work 10-20 hours per week for faculty to whom they are assigned for the period August-May. The TA is responsible for contacting the faculty to whom they are assigned by the day their contract begins, approximately August 16. Selection of TAs and their assignments is a complex process and is based on meeting the needs of the courses, faculty, students and funding requirements.


Teaching assistant responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Grading class assignments.
  • Developing teaching materials.
  • Conferring with students.
  • Recording and posting grades.
  • Assisting with preparation of tests.
  • Proctoring exams for faculty.
  • Abstracting research articles.
  • Updating bibliographies.
  • In addition, TAs will give classroom presentations as requested.

RAs work with faculty members on research projects. Responsibilities are determined by the faculty member in consultation with the student.


TAs and RAs must maintain a GPA of 3.00 or above, be admitted with regular status to a graduate program, and must complete six hours of graduate work each semester towards on their program of study. Preference is given to those graduate students enrolled in the family and human development or sociology program in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

In addition to Sanford School fellowships and assistantships, there are various sources of financial aid through the University. Students should contact ASU's student financial aid office or visit for more information.

In addition to the general doctoral degree track in Family and Human Development, students can focus and organize their elective coursework to reflect areas of specialization. At the present time, three areas of specialization are available: Quantitative Methodology, Social and Emotional Development (SED), and Diverstiy and Inclusion Science (DISI). Graduate students may concentrate their studies in one of these areas or may combine two areas to meet their specific research interests.

Diversity and Inclusion Science (DISI)

Quantitative Methodology

Social and Emotional Development (SED)

Each specialization builds on the basic PhD program in Family and Human Development but provides students with focused coursework and training in areas of strength within the unit. Opportunities to learn from expert faculty within and outside of the Sanford School are reflected in the specializations.

Students do not have to declare a specialization, but those who do will follow the guidelines for the specialization to ensure that training is guided and coherent. Each specialization is designed to enhance students' training and research, such that a programmatic area of expertise is developed.

The Core FHD Graduate Program Faculty are primarily responsible for training FHD doctoral students. In addition, students may also work with other Sanford School faculty members in Family and Human Development and Sociology. See the list below of research faculty members and their interests.

All faculty members are eligible to serve as chairs of master’s committees.

In addition, because ASU sponsors a graduate faculty model, faculty from academic units outside of the Sanford School may also be eligible to serve on the committees of FHD doctoral students.

For a current list of our eligible graduate faculty, please see

Program Faculty

How to apply

How do I apply to the Doctoral Program in Family and Human Development?

Applications are due by December 1st to begin the program the following fall. Admissions made for the fall semester only.

Follow these steps to complete the application process.

1. Graduate College Application

Send official materials to Graduate Admission Services

ASU transcripts do not need to be sent

2. Other required supplemental materials

Submit all of the following materials online via the Graduate College Application at

  • Resume or curriculum vitae. Must summarize the academic and employment experiences of the applicant.
  • Personal Statement. Must be four to six pages, double-spaced, and address the following:
    • State your professional goals and reasons for desiring to enroll in this program.
    • Describe your strengths that will help you succeed in the program and in reaching your professional goals.
    • Describe, in detail, your research experience (include a description of your master's thesis if applicable). Describe the relevant responsibilities you have held.
    • Indicate your personal research interests as specifically as possible.
    • Identify two or three faculty whose research interest matches your own. Explain why you believe these are good matches (view faculty interests).
    • Include any additional information that you feel will help the committee evaluate your application.
  • Three letters of recommendation. Must include at least one from an instructor at the applicant's institution where undergraduate or graduate work was completed. These letters should be from people who know you as a student or in a professional capacity. Letters from family members or friends do not meet this criterion.

As part of the online graduate application you will submit the names and work email addresses for your three recommenders. Your recommenders will be sent instructions on how to electronically send their recommendations.

3. International Students – Required additional materials

International applicants must also meet all of the requirements and supply all of the information requested by the Graduate College at

How are admissions decisions made?

Admission to the Doctoral Program in Family and Human Development is competitive. Applicants will be short-listed based on a review of all submitted materials, including official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate course work, verbal, quantitative, statement of goals relevant to the doctoral program, three letters of recommendation, resume or CV, and complete application for admission to the Graduate College. Those applicants who make the short-list will be invited to visit in the spring for an interview. Final admissions decisions will be made following the interview.

Students are admitted for the fall semester only.

If you have any questions about the online application procedures or about the program, please contact

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 85 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core (1 credit hour)
FAS 503 Academic Professional Development (1)

Other Requirements (26 credit hours)
CDE 531 Theoretical Issues in Child Development (3)
FAS 500 Research Methods (3)
FAS 513 Introduction to Regression and Linear Models (4)
FAS 514 Advanced Regression and Nonlinear Models (4)
FAS 531 Theoretical Issues in Family Sciences (3)
two graduate-level courses in advanced methods or statistics (6)
one graduate-level diversity course (3)

Research (6 credit hours)
FAS or CDE 592 Research (6)

Electives (40 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
FAS or CDE 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
Postbaccalaureate (students entering after the bachelor's degree): Of the 85 credit hours for a postbaccalaureate program, six credit hours are dedicated to an empirical project, and 12 credit hours are for the dissertation.

Post-master's (students entering after the master's degree): When approved by the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program allows 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree to be used for this credential. Of the 55 credit hours of the post-master's degree program, 12 credit hours are for the dissertation.

Electives should be chosen in consultation with and approval of the advisor. Electives may be selected within or outside the Sanford School. All elective courses must be 500 level or higher.

Substitutions for all courses listed under other requirements may be made per department approval.

For the diversity course requirement, students should refer to the department for a list of approved courses.

For the advanced methods or statistics requirement, students take two courses with content that advances beyond Quantitative Methods I and II.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have a bachelor's or master's degree in any field from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. a resume or curriculum vitae
  4. statement of goals relevant to the doctoral program
  5. three letters of recommendation
  6. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

The personal statement must be four to six pages, double-spaced, and address the applicant's professional goals, the applicant's strengths that will enable them to succeed in the program, a detailed description of past research experience, relevant professional experiences or responsibilities, and specific personal research interests. The applicant also must identify two or three faculty members whose research interests match their own and explain why they are good matches.

Three letters of recommendation are required. These must include at least one from an instructor at the institution where the applicant completed their undergraduate or graduate work. The letters should be from people who know the applicant in a professional or academic capacity; letters from family members or friends do not meet this criterion.

Students should see the program website for full application deadlines.

Courses and Electives

FAS 531: Theoretical Issues in Family Sciences
CDE 531: Theoretical Issues in Child Development

Diversity Course
FAS 500: Research Methods
Multiple Regression

2 Advanced Statistics Courses
FAS 503: Professional Development

14 courses

Optional specializations include Diversity and Inclusion Science, Quantitative Methodology, and Social and Emotional Development.

Student will work with their advisor to identify elective courses in the area of expertise that the student would like to develop.

FAS or CDE 592

Empirical Portfolio Project: Students who enter the program with their bachelor's degree will complete a portfolio project in the form of an empirical project to earn their master's in passing. The empirical portfolio project consists of original work on a specific research problem. The problem is decided upon by the student in consultation with the supervisory committee chair. After selection of a research problem, the student develops a research proposal and makes a formal presentation of it to the supervisory committee for critical review and formal acceptance (called the Portfolio Proposal Meeting). The portfolio project can be formatted as a traditional document (i.e., including an introduction, literature review, method, plan of analyses/results, and discussion) or as an empirical article in the format specified for empirical articles in the relevant current edition of the publication manual by the American Psychological Association.

Comprehensive Exam: The comprehensive exam fulfills a number of purposes. On one level, this exam allows students to independently demonstrate the breadth and depth of their knowledge, their ability to think critically, and their readiness to write their dissertation proposal to their supervisory committee. On another level, comprehensive exams should challenge students to utilize and integrate what they have learned in their coursework, and to independently develop a research plan that potentially will sustain their investigative efforts past their doctoral dissertation and into the early years of their career. There are two format options for the exam: students select either (a) grant application or (b) psychological bulletin article.

FAS or CDE 592

FAS or CDE 799

Dissertation: The doctoral dissertation must be the product of original scholarship and must make a significant contribution to knowledge in the field and demonstrate the student's mastery of systematic research methods. The dissertation should be completed using one of two formats: (a) traditional dissertation proposal; or (b) two or three original and distinct empirical articles. For the traditional dissertation option, the prospectus should include a pertinent review of the literature, statement of the problem, the purpose of the proposed study, description of the research design and methods, and discussion of the specific means by which the data will be analyzed (i.e., an introduction and literature review, method, and plan of analysis). For the empirical articles option, the prospectus should include an introduction that provides the broad theoretical rational, statement of the problem and how it will be divided into 2 or 3 studies, and integration of the 2 to 3 planned studies.

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Application Deadlines



Session A/C
In Person
December 1st

Learning Outcomes

  • Apply research methods, including study design, measurement, and analyses in their final exam and dissertation.
  • Apply their understanding of theoretical perspectives to the field of child and family development in their final project and/or final exam.
  • Able to implement a major independent research project that makes a unique contribution to the field of family and human development.

Career Opportunities

Graduates possess knowledge and skills necessary for promoting healthy individual and family development as they study the factors that promote successful relationships and positive outcomes for individuals, families and communities across the life span. Graduates often pursue careers working with children, youth and adults in human, social and government agencies or take on leadership roles as researchers in a university, in a public or privately funded agency, in an industry or in government.

Career examples include:

  • community support program officials
  • government agency administrators and professionals
  • instructors
  • nonprofit organization administrators
  • research professionals

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.