Human Development and Family Studies Major (B.S.)

Human Development and Family Studies Major (B.S.)

HDFS Outdoor Class

What is human development and family studies?

As a human development and family studies major at UNH, you’ll learn to promote the health and well-being of children, adults and families through research, teaching and service. The program curriculum embraces diversity and emphasizes service excellence and innovation, preparing you for a variety of in-demand careers in education, social services and healthcare. Three separate concentrations allow students to focus on early childhood development and education, family support or lifespan development.

Why study human development and family studies at UNH?

As a major public research university, UNH emphasizes hands-on experience and research opportunities. Students in the human development and family studies program have multiple opportunities to put theory into practice through the Child Study and Development Center, Family Connections Center and Marriage and Family Therapy Center. Students in the Child Development Concentration may apply to the Early Childhood Education Teaching Preparation Program, while students in the Family Support Concentration are encouraged to pursue provisional status as a Certified Family Life Educator, preparing them to work in areas such as social services, health services, family support and youth programs.

Potential careers 

  • Child and family support specialist 
  • Child care director 
  • Cooperative extension specialist 
  • Family intervention case manager 
  • Family life educator 
  • Family policy analyst 
  • Human rights advocate 
  • Parent educator 
  • Public school teacher 
  • Youth development program director


Erin Sharp

Phone: (603) 862-2151
Office: Human Development & Family Studies, Pettee Hall Rm 213, Durham, NH 03824
Department of Human Development & Family Studies
Pettee Hall, 55 College Road
Durham, NH 03824
Phone: (603) 862-5021

Curriculum & Requirements


Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) is an academic discipline focused on understanding the development of individuals and families over time and across the ecological contexts in which they live. HDFS is an applied field of study and a versatile undergraduate major for students interested in working to enhance the lives of individuals and families through in-demand careers in settings that include early childhood education, schools, hospitals, and social service agencies. The HDFS curriculum offers students the opportunity to take courses from child and adolescent development to adult development and aging; family, parenting, and interpersonal relationships; classroom curriculum, observation, and assessment; and family programming, policy, and law. Courses in the HDFS major emphasize diverse experiences across age, gender, race and ethnicity, nationality, and socioeconomic status and prepare students for inclusive programming and practice.       

HDFS majors choose between three concentrations: Child Development, Family Support, and Lifespan Development. There is some overlap in coursework and career opportunities across the three concentrations, but each offers unique areas of emphasis.

As a major public research university, UNH emphasizes hands-on experience and research opportunities for undergraduate students. Students in the Human Development and Family Studies program are provided with opportunities to put theory and research into practice through practicum and internship courses in the Child Study and Development Center, Family Connections Center, and many schools and community-based organizations across the Seacoast region of New Hampshire. Students in the Child Development concentration who complete the Early Childhood Education Teacher Preparation Program will be prepared for certification to teach children from Preschool through 3rd Grade. Family Support students who complete the Family Internship Program will be eligible to pursue provisional status as a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) at graduation.

HDFS Undergraduate Concentrations:

  • Child Development focuses on infancy through childhood with an emphasis on learning, education, and developmentally-appropriate practices and activities.   
  • Family Support focuses on development within the context of families, close relationships, and communities.
  • Lifespan Development focuses on understanding and supporting development across the entire lifespan.

Internship Opportunities

Internships are not required for students to complete their degree in HDFS; however there are exciting opportunities to gain hands on experience. Students who want to take part in an internship apply during their junior year for an internship experience that spans their full senior year. An Early Childhood Education (ECE) Teacher Preparation internship is available for qualified students within the Child Development concentration. The Family Support and Lifespan concentrations offer an internship that introduces high-performing students to careers in human services, advocacy, and policy through placements in the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire.

Undergraduate Minors

The HDFS department also offers three complementary undergraduate minors: Human Development and Family Studies, Adolescent and Youth Development, and Child Life. An undergraduate minor allows students to demonstrate a special area of interest, focus, or expertise and supports their academic major and future goals. Each HDFS minor highlights key aspects of individual and family development. Although the Human Development and Family Studies minor is only available to non-HDFS majors, HDFS majors may choose to minor in Adolescent and Youth Development or Child Life. A completed minor at UNH typically consists of 20 credits, or 5 classes, completed with a C- or better.

  • Human Development and Family Studies minor complements undergraduate majors in the social sciences, health professions, and related disciplines by providing students with the opportunity to learn about individual and family development, interpersonal relationships, and the ecological contexts of development.     
  • Adolescent and Youth Development minor is an interdisciplinary minor that allows students to gain specialized knowledge and skills for working with adolescents and emerging adults in school, after-school, and community settings.
  • Child Life minor introduces undergraduate students to the Child Life profession, which involves working with children, adolescents, and families facing challenges associated with hospitalization, medical procedures, illness, and disability.  


This concentration is intended for students who have a broad interest in working with children ranging in age from birth to age eight. The Child Development concentration has four major foci: child development, teaching methodology and curriculum development, developmentally appropriate learning environments for young children, and home-school-community relations.

Child Development: Early Childhood Education (ECE) Teacher Preparation Program

The Early Childhood Education (ECE) Teacher Preparation program prepares students for a career in teaching young children. Course work for this program is designed to maximize in-classroom mentorship and to provide a broad range of exposure across the pre-kindergarten to 3rd-grade levels. This program within the Child Development concentration of the Human Development and Family Studies Department is approved by the New Hampshire State Board of Education.

Requirements and instructions for the application process for this program are detailed below. Students who wish to be considered for the ECE program must indicate their interest at the time of application to the major so that an appropriate plan of study can be arranged.

Juniors in the Child Development concentration who have maintained a minimum overall GPA of 3.2 and a departmental GPA of 3.2 are eligible to apply. Please note that this is a competitive program with limited enrollment. Those accepted into the program must maintain this level of academic achievement throughout the program. Students must be prepared to have their own transportation for off-campus internship placements as needed.

Applications are available through the HDFS department website opportunities>Internships and forms and are due by March 1st of each year. Completed applications will be reviewed by Child Development faculty. Admission decisions will be made by mid-March. Provisional admission may be given to those who have not yet taken and passed the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators test (or who have not received approval from the New Hampshire Department of Education for a Praxis Core Waiver Request) at the time of application in mid-February. Final admission will be given pending the submission of a passing Praxis Core test score (or approved waiver) by the last day of final exams at the end of the junior year.

A Note about Obtaining State Teacher Certification

For detailed information about the State of New Hampshire Department of Education Certification requirements, please visit the State of NH, Department of Education, Bureau of Credentialing.

Although students may graduate from UNH with a bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies, having completed the ECE coursework along with all student teaching requirements, they will not be eligible to apply for the New Hampshire State Teaching Certification without the required set of passing test scores. This is a state of New Hampshire requirement; not a condition for graduation from UNH. In order to fulfill a teaching contract with a public school district, a prospective teacher must be certified by the state in which he/she is to be employed.

In addition to the Praxis Core, all ECE teacher program candidates are expected to take the Praxis II for Education of Young Children (5024) and the New Hampshire Foundations of Reading test prior to graduation.

Early Childhood Education (ECE) Internship Course Descriptions

The ECE Internship course (HDFS 785 Seminar for Student Teachers) is a fall semester seminar-based course intended to prepare students, as teacher candidates, for the student teaching experience that takes place in the spring semester. This course emphasizes students' continued development as learners, researchers, and collaborators. Discussions and projects focus on the ways in which these three roles are developed within the classroom and school community. Students meet as a cohort in weekly/bi-weekly seminars on campus. Students should expect to spend a minimum of five hours per week in their assigned classroom (60+ hours). Other expectations for this course include, but are not limited to: preparing a resume observing at other sites, attending professional conferences, starting a professional portfolio to document their achievement of professional teaching standards, and completing additional assignments and readings.

HDFS 786 Seminar for Student Teachers and HDFS 788 Student Teaching Young Children: provide the student teaching experience in the spring semester of the senior year. Students should expect to spend a minimum of twenty-five hours per week (a minimum of 325+ hours total) in their assigned classrooms, gradually assuming increasing teaching responsibilities, culminating in the assumption of two to three lead-teaching weeks. Additional hours outside of actual classroom/program operation hours are expected for meeting and planning with cooperating teachers, preparing for teaching, and attending parent conferences and other school functions, as well as attending professional conferences. Seminars provide continued opportunity for reflection on students' development as teacher candidates, reflecting on classroom practices, identifying teaching strengths and weaknesses, and planning their first professional appointment as teachers of young learners. Students should be prepared to meet weekly after school hours and to complete and present their professional portfolio to faculty and related professionals in the field.

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This concentration focuses on individual and family development across social and cultural contexts. Students in the Family Support concentration develop knowledge and skills that prepare them to work with individuals and families to support healthy development and well-being across multiple settings including schools, social service agencies, and non-profit organizations.

Students in this concentration can apply for the status of Provisional Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) through the National Council on Family Relations. Our HDFS program is a CFLE-approved undergraduate academic program through the National Council on Family Relations. Our students can become certified by applying and demonstrating the completion of our curriculum along with completion of our full-year, senior internship.

Family Internship

The Family Internship program introduces students to careers in human services through placements in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire. By working alongside professionals in after-school programs, non-profit organizations, and other local agencies, students will have opportunities to hone their professional skills and focus their goals for their future careers.

In the Family Internship (HDFS 782 Family Internship), students will apply knowledge gained from their academic studies at an approved internship site. The internship involves a commitment of 16 hours per week for two semesters, plus a 2-credit seminar (HDFS 792 Family Internship Seminar, which meets every other week for a full academic year. Some internship sites may require additional applications or a criminal background check before placement is finalized. Arrangements for criminal background checks are the responsibility of the student and the requesting organization, not the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Students apply for the internship during the spring semester of their junior year. Internship applicants must have completed 20 credits of departmental coursework prior to their senior year. Internship courses (HDFS 782 Family Internship/HDFS 792 Family Internship Seminar) count toward the 20 credits required in supporting courses. Lifespan Development students who want to participate in the Family Internship should plan to take HDFS 760 Family Programs and Policies during their junior or senior year.  Click here for application and additional internship information.

Certified Family Life Educator

Students in the Family Support concentration who are accepted to the Family Internship are encouraged to apply for provisional status as a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE). Family life educators work in a variety of settings including social services, health services, child care, family support, youth programs, parent education, junior and senior high schools, and universities and colleges. The CFLE certification demonstrates expertise in a broad range of topics and increases professional credibility by validating students’ education and experience. The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) has approved the Department of Human Development and Family Studies’ Family Support concentration as meeting the standards and criteria required for CFLE certification. Students may apply to NCFR for provisional CFLE designation upon completion of required coursework (see marked courses in the table below.) Upon meeting additional requirements listed on the NCFR website, students can apply for full certification after graduation.

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This concentration focuses on learning about developmental tasks and developmentally-appropriate practices across the entire lifespan. Students in the Lifespan Development concentration take courses in each of the development periods: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and aging. Students also gain expertise in contexts of development, like families and communities, but the focus is on the full range of life stages and an emphasis on system dynamics, diverse family systems, gender, and cultural differences. Students in the Lifespan Development concentration may also apply to take part in the full-year, senior, Family Internship program.

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Major Requirements

The core curriculum required of each Human Development and Family Studies student is designed to give a broad introduction to individual and family development and interpersonal relationships across the lifespan. Building off this curriculum, each student will select an area of concentration in Child Development, Family Support, or Lifespan Development that will guide further required coursework. With assistance from faculty advisors, students also choose supporting courses that allow them an individualized component to the major, tailored to their specific interests and career objectives. Lastly, the senior year culminates in the required capstone experience and optional internship opportunity.

Candidates for the Human Development and Family Studies degree must satisfy all of the University Discovery requirements in addition to satisfying the requirements of their HDFS concentration.

Core Curriculum

HDFS 525Human Development4
HDFS 545Intimate Relationships and Families4
One Statistics Course: choose from ADM 430, ADMN 420, BIOL 528, EREC 525, HHS 540, MATH 439, MATH 539, MATH 644, PSYC 402, SOC 402.4
Selected Concentration (Requirements listed below)24
Capstone experience (Requirement listed by concentration below)4
Supporting Courses (applies to all concentrations) 120

Concentrations and Requirements

Child Development Concentration
Child Development Concentration: ECE Teacher Preparation Program
Family Support/Provisional CFLE Concentration
Lifespan Development Concentration

Note: Students apply to the ECE Teacher Preparation Program during their Junior year.


HDFS 623Developmental Perspectives on Infancy and Early Childhood4
HDFS 635Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Settings4
HDFS 709Child Development Internship4
HDFS 734Curriculum for Young Children4
HDFS 771Observation and Assessment of Young Children4
Select one additional HDFS course 500 or above4
HDFS 743Families, Schools, and Community (Capstone)4


HDFS 623Developmental Perspectives on Infancy and Early Childhood4
HDFS 635Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Settings4
HDFS 709Child Development Internship4
HDFS 734Curriculum for Young Children4
HDFS 771Observation and Assessment of Young Children4
HDFS 743Families, Schools, and Community (Capstone)4
ECE Required Courses 2
HDFS 785Seminar for Student Teachers2
HDFS 786Seminar for Student Teachers2
HDFS 788Student Teaching Young Children8
EDUC 500Exploring Teaching4
MATH 601Exploring Mathematics for Teachers I4
MATH 703Teaching of Mathematics in Grades K-54
EDUC 706Introduction to Reading in the Elementary School4
EDUC 751AEducating Exceptional Learners: Elementary4
or EDUC 760 Introduction to Young Children with Special Needs
EDUC 703MTeaching Elementary Social Studies4
EDUC 703FTeaching Elementary School Science4


HDFS 641Parenting Across the Life Span 34
HDFS 746Human Sexuality 34
HDFS 760Family Programs and Policies 34
HDFS 794Families and the Law 34
or HDFS 776 Children, Adolescents and the Law
HDFS 623Developmental Perspectives on Infancy and Early Childhood4
or HDFS 624 Developmental Perspectives on Adolescence and Early Adulthood
or HDFS 625 Adult Development and Aging
HDFS 757Race, Class, Gender, and Families (Capstone) 34
HDFS 586Families at Risk4
or HDFS 553 Personal and Family Finance for Family Life Professionals
or HDFS 797 Advanced Special Topics


HDFS 623Developmental Perspectives on Infancy and Early Childhood4
HDFS 624Developmental Perspectives on Adolescence and Early Adulthood4
HDFS 625Adult Development and Aging4
HDFS 641Parenting Across the Life Span4
HDFS 746Human Sexuality4
HDFS 794Families and the Law4
or HDFS 776 Children, Adolescents and the Law
HDFS 757Race, Class, Gender, and Families (Capstone)4

Explore Program Details

Honors in Major for the HDFS Department offers students the opportunity to undertake an in-depth study of issues related to the health and well-being of individuals and families. The program emphasizes student-led, individualized curricula and encourages the formation of working relationships between students and faculty.

Honor in Major can be pursued without participating in the University Honors Program or completing Discovery Honors requirements. To learn more University Honors, visit the University Honor Program website . Students, however, must still complete all HDFS requirements for their concentration.

Student’s interested in pursuing Honor in Major need to schedule a meeting with the Honor’s Program Liaison, Dr. Kimberly Nesbitt. While applications must be submitted before the end of Spring semester of the Junior year, students are encouraged to apply early to allow maximum flexibility in completing program requirements.

GPA Requirements for Honors in Major

Honors in Major for HDFS is open all undergraduates in all department concentrations; however, students are required to maintain an overall grade-point average of 3.40 and a 3.40 grade-point average in the major.

Honors in Major Courses

Students must successfully complete sixteen (16) credits of honors in HDFS at the 600 level or above. Of those sixteen credits, only one course may be chosen from the 600 level, while three must be chosen from the 700 level. The 700-level coursework must include 4 credits (across two semesters) of HDFS 799 – Honors Senior Thesis. HDFS honors courses require independent work, readings, and meetings with the course instructor not required of other students enrolled in the course.

Honors Thesis

Students must successfully complete four credits of HDFS 799 – Honors Senior Thesis. HDFS 799 is a two-credit course that is taken pass/fail over both semesters of the student’s senior year. As part of the thesis process, honors candidates must present a proposal to their faculty advisors that includes active student participation in original research. Once their research is completed, honors students must present their findings at a seminar (typically the UNH Undergraduate Research Conference ) and submit a written thesis to their faculty advisor.

Learn more about Honors in Major: 

Contact Information

For more information, contact:
Dr. Kimberly Nesbitt
Honors Program Liaison
Phone: (603) 862-2159

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