PhD in Human Development and Family Studies

Professor sharing her research in a colloquium.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the highest achievement in preparation for active scholarship and research. The PhD in Human Development and Family Studies provides strong integrative training in theory, research methods, and statistics relevant to a primary and secondary concentrations in:

  • Family Relations
  • Human Development
  • Marriage and Family Therapy

Most of our PhD graduates are currently teaching and/or conducting research at the university level. Some are employed at research organizations or in research extension positions.

PhD students work closely with a faculty mentor (committee chair), at least three other faculty members from within the department, and at least one faculty member from outside of the department. Depending on students’ and faculty interest, availability of existing data, and a number of other factors, students may develop their own independent research projects under the oversight of faculty, and/or work with faculty on existing studies. Therefore, understanding the research interests of our faculty, and whether or not these fit with a prospective student’s own interests, is essential for a student selecting a PhD program.

Learn about the Admission Requirements for this program.

How to Apply

Contact Information

RaNae Wamsley

RaNae Wamsley

Graduate Program Coordinator

Phone: 435-797-1501
Office Location: FL 205

Degree Options

Post-BS (also called the BS-to-PhD)

Starting the PhD with a completed bachelor’s degree, and not seeking an MS before the PhD (not available for Marriage and Family Therapy emphasis).

Post-BS Course Requirements



Post-MS.: Starting the PhD program with a completed Master of Science degree.

Post-MS Course Requirements

Post-MS with MFT Concentration Course Requirements



Primary and Secondary Areas of Concentration

Family Relations

Couples and Family Relationships

Areas of study include: couples, marital formation, marriage and family interaction, parenthood, sibling relationships, the interface of marriage and family relationships with other social structures, family crises, and various forms of marriage and family. Examples of current research opportunities include marital adjustment in the early years of marriage, marital quality in diverse populations, sibling relationships in adolescence, families in sport, parenting impact on academic outcomes, and remarriage and stepfamily research.

Family Finance

Areas of study include: family finance, financial education, financial health, family economic issues, and economic issues related to aging.

Human Development Through the Lifespan

Infancy and Childhood

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development from birth through the school-age years. Examples of current research opportunities include infant attachment, social development and competence, language development, early parent-child interaction, and developmentally appropriate practice.

Youth and Adolescence

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development of youth and teens as they interact with their families, peers, the educational system, and social institutions pertaining to achieving maturity in a modern world. Examples of current research opportunities include parenting of early adolescents, substance abuse, social media, cognitive autonomy, adolescent environments, bullying and victimization, and identity development.

Adult Development and Aging

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development of young, middle-aged, and older adults as they develop within the context of families, the work environment, social institutions, health, and the larger social structure. Examples of current research opportunities include health and well-being of family members caring for older adults, the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, quality of life for persons with dementia, how stress and other psychosocial factors influence psychological, physical, and cognitive health in older adults, intergenerational relations, and economic issues relevant to aging individuals.

Marriage and Family Therapy

The doctoral concentration in MFT is designed to prepare students to be competitive in seeking employment in a variety of settings. The training in research, clinical/supervision and teaching is specifically designed to make the student competitive for positions in academia. Faculty members are passionate about the field of marriage and family therapy and are invested in guiding doctoral students in their preparation for their desired career path.


The doctoral concentration in MFT is designed to prepare students to conduct high quality research. They will be trained in advanced research methods and statistics in both basic and applied (clinical) ways. Our goal is to train those interested in pursuing academia or settings where research is a major focus in order to advance the field of MFT education and training. The PhD student will develop and advance a competitive research agenda through publications, grant writing experiences, and presentations at national conferences.

Clinical Supervision

Doctoral students will continue developing the area of clinical expertise through courses and clinical work at the onsite clinic and practicums in offsite agencies. All clinical work is supervised by AAMFT approved supervisors. In addition, we will provide doctoral students the opportunity to provide supervision of our master’s students and work towards their AAMFT approved supervisor designation.


Students will be provided with opportunities to teach both upper and lower division undergraduate classes in the larger department, including courses in the above content areas (Family Relations and Human Development through the Lifespan). All doctoral students will learn effective teaching methods and strategies, create and adapt syllabi, and develop a teaching portfolio to be competitive for academic positions.