This major is a multidisciplinary program that examines the development of individuals and families across the life span. It enables students to prepare for professional, managerial, or scientific roles in health and human services professions, in public and nonprofit agencies, and in business and industry, as well as for advanced professional or graduate study. Students obtain a broad background in individual and family development across the life span. Courses emphasize biological psychological, social/cultural, and economic aspects of development. Through coursework and undergraduate internships or research projects, students develop skills relevant to career objectives, such as counseling, human assessment, program planning and evaluation, and research.
Penn State Brandywine offers two options within the degree program:
Life Span Human Services Option
This option focuses on the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge about development and family functioning across the life span for the purposes of enhancing personal and family development. Courses emphasize:
- understanding the biological, psychological, and social development across the life span, and the structuring and functioning of families;
- understanding basic theoretical and methodological issues; and
- the development of applied skills in intervention and evaluation, prevention, and in the formulation of social policy.
An approved field experience in a setting that serves children, youth, adults, or the aged is required for this option. Typical employment settings include preschools, daycare centers, hospital programs for children, youth, and families, institutional and community mental health programs for individuals and families, programs for abused or neglected children and adolescents, women's resource centers, human resources programs, employee assistance programs, nursing homes, area agencies on aging and other community settings for older adults, and public welfare and family service agencies. Typical postgraduate pursuits of students completing this option include graduate study in human development, family studies, psychology, or sociology, or advanced professional training in psychology, law, behavioral health, counseling or social work.
Life Span Developmental Science Option
This option focuses on the understanding of contemporary methodological approaches to the acquisition of scientific knowledge about individual development over the life span and about family development. This option provides preparation for advanced training in careers in developmental or family research, teaching at a college or university, or for professional careers that require graduate training. Courses within this option emphasize a thorough understanding of the theory and methods of developmental and family theory and research. An approved, multi-semester research practicum is an integral component of this option. Typical postgraduate pursuits of students completing this option include graduate study in human development, family studies, psychology, or sociology, or advanced professional training in psychology, law, behavioral health, social work, or in other programs related to services for individuals and families. This option requires an application. In consultation with an advisor and faculty supervisor, students must submit an application for the option during the 5th or 6th semester.
Internships and Research
Human Development and Family Studies students have many opportunities to integrate classroom learning with hands-on experience, such as service learning and problem-based projects. Most students complete a full-time internship, in which they gain valuable experience in the type of career they want to pursue after completing their degree. Common internship sites include:
- high school guidance counseling offices
- behavioral health intervention services
- Head Start programs
- county office on aging
- human resources departments
- hospital social work departments
- college admissions offices
- hospice facilities
Students who desire to become more than a sophisticated consumer of social/behavioral science and are interested in a career that will include research, can work with faculty on a range of exciting research projects. Previous project topics include:
- Toddlers’ word learning strategies
- Numerical understanding in middle school
- Parent perceptions of toys
- Identity and gender differences in adolescents
- Intimate partner violence
Our undergraduate researchers have presented their work on campus and at regional and international conferences. Many alumni now find themselves in Master’s and Ph.D. programs around the country.