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What is Health and Human Development?

Diverse fields of study that share one
common goal: enriching the lives of others.

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Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) is a program in Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development. In the HDFS program, you learn about how people and families develop biologically, psychologically, and socially.

Learning About the Person


The undergraduate program in HDFS provides you the opportunity to learn the foundations of working in a wide range of human services with many different groups of people.

Through your time in HDFS, you will learn about the intricacies of the human lifespan from birth to old age. You will explore the biological, psychological, and the sociological facets of life in order to help others live healthy successful lives. With a focus on child and adolescent development, adult development and aging, biological aspects of human development, family studies, or prevention and developmental research, you will learn about how individuals progress and change from birth to old age. A friendly and helpful team of faculty and staff members are available to support you as you learn about promoting normal development, identifying and managing real-life problems, and intervening when appropriate.

The program helps you to prepare for a career where you will work with people in a supportive role, including developing new models to prevent and treat social and mental health problem and becoming an advocate for new social policies and programs.

You will be encouraged through coursework and other experiences beyond the classroom to develop the leadership and managerial skills necessary for success in administration and evaluation of human service programs.

Degree Program and Options

The Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) program is a bachelor of science degree (B.S.) program. There are two options in the program. In each of the options, you can pursue one of four optional emphases: Addressing Individual and Family Problems; Health, Wellness and Prevention; Advocacy and Policy; and Business, Technology and Service Innovation.

Life Span Human Services

As a student in the Life Span Human Services (LSHS) option, you will focus on family functioning and human development for the purposes of enhancing people’s lives.

This option is designed to assist you to gain knowledge and experience through coursework and internship opportunities.

Life Span Developmental Science

As a student in the Life Span Developmental Science (LSDS) option, your focus will be on understanding the theories and methods of developmental and family research.

The coursework and research experiences in this option will help you to develop critical thinking and writing skills. You will work closely with faculty doing research.

Concurrent Majors

If you are interested in teaching, HDFS has a concurrent major option that allows you to earn a degree in HDFS (either option) and a bachelor of science degree in Childhood and Early Adolescent Education.


The HDFS minor is useful in many fields that require an understanding of individual and family development, such as healthcare, education, liberal arts, business, and law.

HDFS is also home to the intercollege minor in Gerontology, which is designed to assist students in gaining an in-depth understanding of the aging process and old age.

Professional Development

Student Organization

Human Development and Family Studies Student Organization represents undergraduate interests to the Department and provides opportunities for leadership development, opportunities to work with faculty, informational programs, community service, and lots of opportunities to do something constructive for HDFS and yourself.

Professional Interaction

Alumni of the program regularly return to campus to take part in professional and social events. You will have the opportunity to meet and work with a number of these engaged alumni and learn from them.

Professional Resources