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Child Development and Family Studies Graduate Programs

Child development and family studies degree programs are available at the master's and doctoral degree levels. Here we discuss some of these programs, their admissions standards and typical coursework.

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Students can pursue studies in child development and family studies through a Master of Science, Master of Arts or PhD degree program in program fields like child and family studies, human development and family studies or human development and family science. These programs are typically offered on-campus and prepare students to work directly with children and families in a variety of settings. Learn more about the degree programs and their requirements here.

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Information for Graduate Degree Programs in Child Development and Family Studies

Most master's programs in child development and family studies culminate in a thesis or final project; doctoral programs require a dissertation. Students may participate in internships or clinical practicums to gain experience working with children and families. Some of these graduate programs offer additional concentrations, such as child life, early childhood education, and child development. Coursework may vary based on these concentrations and students' career goals, but below are a few examples of common courses for these degree programs.

Research Methods

Students in these programs are usually required to take a course in research methods that discusses the research process and methodologies specific to studying children and families. These courses examine the ethics and issues with studying families as well as the different research and measurement theories in the field. Specific topics may include qualitative sampling, survey research, limitations, design, field research and more.

Family Theory

Courses in family theory typically train students how to critically assess theories in family studies and apply them to research, education, prevention and intervention. Students analyze different family models and evaluate family research. Specific topics students may explore include parenting, stress, family violence, gender, family development and more.

Diversity in Children and Families

As the name implies, students in diversity courses explore diversity in families, including children, adults, and society. These courses generally discuss similarities, diversity and variations in the family context and how they relate to society. Students in these courses also discuss the relationships between social class, gender, race and family structure.

Human Development Theory

Students in human development theory courses learn about the analysis of human development models, evaluating their relevance and exploring their applications. These courses often require critical research and application of theories in education, intervention and other areas. Specific course topics may include life course theory, gender differences in development, cultural differences in development, socialization, risk and resilience.

Family Stress/Issues

Students in courses that discuss family stress or issues usually examine research on specific stressors and critical events for families as well as coping and resiliency patterns. These courses may explore how various stressors affect the development of children and families. Specific stressors covered may include, but are not limited to, violence, divorce, cohabitation, step-families and parenting.

Common Entrance Requirements

Graduate degree programs in child development and family studies usually require applicants to fill out the appropriate application and include their official transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and/or a resume or CV. It is fairly common for these programs to have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0, and some programs may also have minimum GRE score requirements. Some programs may also require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in child development, child and family studies or a closely related field, or at least some coursework in the field. There are some PhD programs that offer an accelerated MS to PhD program; these are competitive and require a strong academic/research background.

Students interested in working closely with children and their families to help aid a child's development may pursue a master's or doctoral degree in child development and family studies. These degree programs may include hands-on experience and cover a wide range of scholarly topics relating to children and families.

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