Developmental Psychology | Human Development

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Developmental Psychology

Department of Human Development

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Program Description

The Program in Developmental Psychology focuses on the development of individuals across their lifespan; at Teachers College, our focus is on the infant, preschool, school, and early adulthood life phases/years. Development occurs within contexts; at Teachers College, our focus is on the family, the preschool and school, the neighborhood, and the media. We are interested in both how development unfolds and how trajectories may be altered by interventions and programs. Development involves interactions between the individual and environments; at Teachers College, our focus is on how biological characteristics and vulnerabilities are expressed in various contexts and on how genes by environmental interactions are expressed (and may be altered).

Master of Arts (M.A.)  

The Master of Arts degree in Developmental Psychology minimally requires completion of 32 points. In accordance with individual interests and objectives, students acquire familiarity with basic theoretical and research orientations as well as exposure to substantive knowledge in the areas of cognitive, language, personality, and social functioning and development. Opportunity exists for the study of deviant as well as normal psychological functioning within a developmental framework.

Students may pursue independent study in order to undertake theoretical or empirical research projects or fieldwork. Students whose goal is to acquire professional skills in clinical or counseling psychology may enroll in introductory course offerings, which in many cases may be applicable if the student is later admitted to one of the more advanced master's or doctoral programs in those areas.

In order to accommodate the diverse aims of individual students, a considerable degree of flexibility has been built into the course of study leading to the M.A. degree. An attempt has been made to minimize specific course requirements, and the student will find that there is a good deal of freedom to choose from among the many offerings provided by Teachers College. 

The course of study has these main components:

  • A basic course in methods of research.

  • Required courses in cognitive development, personality development in atypical populations, and social and personality development.

  • A basic course in statistics.

  • Research capstone.

  • Electives in developmental psychology plus relevant electives offered by other Teachers College programs.

  • A special project.

Students completing the M.A. degree accept positions in research laboratories or field settings, biomedical institutions, educational and child care agencies, foundations, public policy settings, state and local governments, community programs, and as instructors in community colleges; or they go on to pursue more advanced degrees in particular areas of specialization.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The 75-point doctoral degree prepares students for faculty positions in colleges, graduate schools of education, and universities, and for positions as research associates in research laboratories, biomedical schools, foundations, public policy, and arts and sciences, as well as policy research firms, governmental agencies, and nons-profit organizations. Throughout their program, doctoral candidates work in a close apprentice relationship with a faculty advisor of their choice. The Ph.D. degree requires completion of 75 points with an empirical research dissertation.

The aim of instruction at the doctoral level is to produce a psychologist who can make a sound and innovative research contribution to the study of human development, who is concerned with the relationship between development and education, and who is equipped to teach about such matters. Students acquire the conceptual background and methodological skills necessary for faculty positions in colleges and universities or for positions as associates and consultants in research laboratories, biomedical schools, and other applied settings.

While consultation between student and faculty advisor is considered to be the best way to decide which steps should be taken towards these goals, there are specific requirements for all students in Developmental Psychology that serve to define the character of the Program and to ensure that all students have a common experience and acquire a common level of expertise in dealing with the core issues in the field.

The courses offered through the Program provide content in the research and theoretical literature relating to all phases of the psychology of human development. All age groups are covered, from infancy through childhood, adolescence to adulthood, and later life. Coursework in developmental psychology can be supplemented by courses in the other psychology programs at Teachers College as well as by courses in the social sciences, linguistics, and other fields offered at Teachers College and the graduate faculty of Columbia University (including the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons). The doctoral program is focused primarily on training in the conduct of empirical (e.g., experimental, observational, and interview) research. Other types of research (theoretical, descriptive, and historical) may be undertaken in special circumstances of student and advisor competence.


  • Master of Arts

    • Points/Credits: 32

      Entry Terms: Summer/Fall

      Degree Requirements

      1. Five CORE courses taken for 3 points each.

        • The following three courses:

          • HUD 4120 Methods of Empirical Research

          • HUDK 5023 Cognitive Development

          • HUDK 5040 Development and Psychopathology: Atypical Contexts and Populations

        • One of the following two courses on Social-Emotional Development:

          • HUDK 5029 Personality Development and Socialization across the Lifespan

          • HUDK 5121 Children's Social and Emotional Development in Context

        • A fifth course selected from among the following options:

          • BBS 5068 - 5069 Brain and Behavior I and II (taken for a total of 3 points)

          • BBSN 5193 - Neuroscience of Adversity

          • HUDK 4027 Development of Mathematical Thinking

          • HUDK 4029 Human Cognition and Learning

          • HUDK 4080 Educational Psychology

          • HUDK 5024 Language Development

          • HUDK 5025 Spatial Thinking

          • HUDK 5030 Visual Explanations

          • BBSN 5007 Neuroscience Applications to Education

      2. One of the following three STATISTICS courses taken for 3 points:

        • HUDM 4120 Basic Concepts in Statistics (if no undergraduate statistics)

        • HUDM 4122 Probability/Statistical Inference

        • HUDM 5122 Applied Regression Analysis

      3. Two SPECIALIZED Courses in the Developmental Psychology Program taken for 3 points each.

        • HUDK  5500 Capstone

        • One additional course in the Developmental Psychology Program

        • Each student shall complete a Departmental Special Project.

        • The practicum will be the course in which students are mentored on this special project. The special project is intended to be a "culminating experience" that allows the student to integrate in one paper various aspects of what has been learned at Teachers College. The project does not have to be an empirical study, it may be a literature review or theoretical paper. If the special project involves an empirical study, it does not have to be a complete investigation; it may be a report of a pilot study. Students should aim to generate an organized, scholarly document, reporting thoughtful, careful and rigorous work

      4. Additional COURSES OUTSIDE the Developmental Psychology Program taken for 1-3 points each. (To meet the College breadth requirement, students must take a total of six points in Teachers College courses outside the Program, by any combination of courses).

      5. One ELECTIVE COURSE selected in consultation with an advisor. Note: Students doing a field-based internship should enroll in HUDK5100.

      6. In consultation with an advisor and with permission of the supervising faculty member, a relevant independent study may be taken, but is not required.

      7. Special Project (completed as part of the HUDK 5500 course): The special project is intended to be a "culminating experience" that allows students to integrate in one paper various aspects of what has been learned at Teachers College. The project does not have to be an empirical study; it may be a literature review, theoretical paper, evaluation of an educational program, or a research proposal. If the special project involves an empirical study, it does not have to be a complete investigation; it may be a report of a pilot study. Students should aim to generate an organized, scholarly document, reporting thoughtful, careful, and rigorous work.

      Transfer Credit

      For the M.A. degree, no transfer credit is granted for work completed at other universities.

      Satisfactory Progress

      Students are expected to make satisfactory progress toward the completion of degree requirements. If satisfactory progress is not maintained, a student may be dismissed from the program. Where there are concerns about satisfactory progress, students will be informed by the program faculty. If a student is performing below expectations, remedial work within an appropriate timeline may be required.


      HUD Staff

      P: 212-678-4190

  • Doctor of Philosophy

    • Points/Credits: 75

      Entry Terms: Summer/Fall

      Degree Requirements

      Courses and Requirements 

      Core Courses: 

      Students are generally advised to take the following four courses in developmental psychology in their first year of doctoral studies.

      • HUDK 5040 Developmental and psychopathology: Atypical contexts 
      • HUDK 6520 Seminar on lifespan development 
      • HUDK 5023 Cognitive Development
      • HUD 4120  Methods of Empirical Research
        ORLJ  5040  Research methods in social psychology I 

      Statistics Sequence: 

      The following four statistics courses are required, and students are advised to begin enrollment during the first semester of study. HUDM 4122 may be waived for students who have taken appropriate coursework in statistics at the undergraduate/graduate level or who have passed an equivalency examination. Please contact HUD Staff at  for more information. 

      • HUDM 4122   Probability and statistical inference 
      • HUDM 5122   Applied regression analysis
        EDPA5002 - Data Analysis for Policy Decision Making
      • HUDM 5123   Linear models and experimental Design
        EDPE6023 - Advanced Causal Methods 
      • HUDM 6122   Multivariate analysis 

      Once this sequence is finished, students may find it helpful to take one or more of the following courses, which provide instruction on more advanced topics:  

      • HUDM 6030   Multilevel and longitudinal data analysis
      • HUDM 6055   Latent structure analysis 
      • ​​HUDM 5133 Casual Inference Program Evaluation

      Breadth Requirement:  

      All doctoral students must take at least one course for a minimum of 3 points in each of the following four areas listed below. The courses must be other than courses required as part of the degree program core. Students should consult with their advisors about whether specific courses meet program requirements.  Examples of suitable courses are included below.Students may also consult the TC course catalog for other examples. Note that courses used to fill the Breadth/Foundation course requirements may not be used to fulfill requirements in another area. 

      Biological Basis of Behavior:

      • BBS   5068 Brain & behavior I and BBS 5069 Brain and behavior II (total 3 points)

      • MSTC 5000 Neurocognitive Models of Information Processing

      • BBSN 5007 Neuroscience Applications to Education

      Cognitive Basis of Behavior:

      • CCPX 5020 Cognition, emotion, and culture

      • HBSK 5096 Psychology of memory

      • HUDK 4015 Psychology of thinking

      • HUDK 4029 Human cognition and learning

      • HUDK 5024 Language development

      • HUDK 5025 Spatial thinking

      • HUDK 5030 Visual explanations

      • HUDK 5090 Psychology of language and reading

      Social Cultural Factors & Individual Differences:

      • BBSN 5152  Neuroscience, Ethics and the Law

      • BBSN 5193  Neuroscience of Adversity

      • HBSK 5031 Family as context for child development

      • HUDK 5029 Personality development and socialization across the lifespan

      • HUDK 5121 Children's social and emotional development in context

      • HUDK 5125 Cross cultural psychology

      • HUDK 6036 Child and family policy I

      • ORLJ  5017  Small group intervention: Theory and method

      • ORLJ  5106  Psychological aspects of organizations

      • ORLJ  5540  Proseminar in social and organizational psychology


      • HUDM 5059   Psychological measurement 

      • HUDM 6051   Psychometric theory

      • HUDM 6055   Latent structure analysis   

      Proseminar Requirement: 

      Doctoral Students are required to enroll in proseminar during the fall and spring of their first year. The course is taken for 3 credits per semester, totaling 6 credits for the year. This course covers various topics integral to the doctoral experience and is a great way for students to present their work amongst peers and gain feedback. 

      HUD 6500 Doctoral Proseminar (2 semesters)

      Out-of-Department Requirement:  

      Doctoral students must take at least three courses outside the Department. 

      Course Assistantship Requirement:   

      Doctoral students must be a course assistant for two master's-level courses, which may include HUDK 5324, the Master's Practica. For more information, please visit the Department of Human Development located in Grace Dodge Hall, room 453.

      Certification Papers:  

      The two advanced requirements that are met prior to presenting a dissertation proposal are an original theoretical paper and an original empirical research paper in the student's area of specialization. For more information, please visit the Department of Human Development located in Grace Dodge Hall, room 453. 

      Certification Examination: 

      As part of their certification requirements, all students must take a three-hour examination in research methods. 

      Post-Certification Requirement:

      Ph.D. candidates must take a minimum of 15 additional points after meeting certification requirements, including the points enrolled during the semester in which certification occurs.   

      Dissertation Seminar: 

      For a dissertation proposal to be approved, the student must enroll in Dissertation Seminar (HUDK 7501). Dissertation Seminar is typically taken for one semester--the semester in which the student wishes to finish the dissertation proposal and have it approved. It can be taken for a maximum of two semesters. If the proposal is not approved in the first semester, the student must register for a second semester. After the approval of the proposal or the completion of the second semester, whichever comes first, the student proceeds automatically into registration for Dissertation Advisement. 

      Dissertation Proposal Hearing:

      When the student and the advisor have agreed on a proposal for dissertation research, a proposal hearing will be scheduled. 

      Advanced Seminar: 

      After completing the collection of data, the student will request that an Advanced Seminar be scheduled. The purpose of the Advanced Seminar is for the committee to review data and their analysis before the final Dissertation Defense. 

      Dissertation Defense:

      Requirements for the scheduling of the dissertation defense and composition of the dissertation committee can be found in the requirements bulletin for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (obtainable from the Office of Doctoral Studies). 

      M.Phil. Degree:

      The M. Phil is an en passant degree awarded to those nearing the completion of the Ph.D. degree. The student contacts the Office of Doctoral Studies to file for the award of the degree. 

      To receive the M. Phil., the student must satisfactorily complete the following requirements: 

      1. File an approved "Program Plan of Study" with the Office of Doctoral Studies 

      2. Complete at least six courses with evaluative grades under Teachers College registration

      3. Pass the Certification Examination 

      4. Complete an approved empirical research paper 

      5. Complete an approved theoretical research paper 

      6. Complete all 75 points of coursework required for the degree. 

      Please note: Students must submit a copy of their Program Plan of Study and both research papers to the Department of Human Development for record keeping purposes. 

      Transfer Credit:    

      Relevant graduate courses with earned grades of B or higher taken in other accredited graduate schools to a maximum of 30 points, or 45 points if completed in another Faculty of Columbia University, may be accepted toward the minimum point requirement for the Ph.D. degree. For more information, please contact the Transfer Credit Coordinator in the Registrar's Office. 

      Satisfactory Progress: 

      Students are expected to make satisfactory progress toward the completion of degree requirements. If satisfactory progress is not maintained, a student may be dismissed from the program. Where there are concerns about satisfactory progress, students will be informed by the program faculty.


  • Faculty

    • Jeanne Brooks-Gunn Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child and Parent Development and Education
    • Kimberly G Noble Professor of Neuroscience and Education
    • Tyler Wayne Watts Assistant Professor in Developmental Psychology
  • Lecturers

    • Laura Mielcarek DeRose Lecturer


  • HUD 4120 - Methods of empirical research
    An introduction to the methods of scientific inquiry, research planning, and techniques of making observations and analyzing and presenting data.
  • HUDK 4021 - Developmental psychology: Infancy
    Review of research and theory in early perceptual, cognitive, and social/emotional development, with particular attention to the interaction of biological and environmental factors in early life.
  • HUDK 4022 - Developmental psychology: Childhood
    Children's cognition, perception, representation, language, affect, personality, and sexuality. Family structure and school as they influence these aspects of childhood.
  • HUDK 4023 - Developmental psychology: Adolescence
    Theoretical and empirical studies of classic and current theories of how adolescents construct their identity and develop physically, cognitively, morally, emotionally, and socially.
  • HUDK 4027 - How Children Learn Math
    The development of informal and formal mathematical thinking from infancy through childhood with implications for education.
  • HUDK 4901 - Research and independent study
    Permission required.
  • HUDK 5020 - The development of creativity
    Major theories and contemporary research in creative work, emphasizing case studies of exceptional and historically influential individuals.
  • HUDK 5023 - Cognitive development
    Theory and research on the development of cognitive processes across the lifespan.
  • HUDK 5024 - Language Development
    Survey of research and theory in the development of language, beginning with communication and the origins of language in infancy and emphasizing acquisition of the forms of language in relation to their content and use.
  • HUDK 5029 - Development and socialization across the lifespan
    Theory and research regarding the interaction between naturally developing personality structures and socialization processes throughout life.
  • HUDK 5040 - Development and psychopathology: Atypical contexts and populations
    Using contemporary research as the basis, the focus is on the interface between classical developmental psychology theories and patterns of development identified in atypical contexts (e.g., poverty) and among atypical populations (e.g., resilient youth). Implications for interventions and policy are also discussed.
  • HUDK 5121 - Children's Social and Emotional Development in Context
    Contemporary theory and research on children adaptation to developmental tasks of childhood. Comparison of typical and atypical pathways in social-personality development. Analysis of the logic and method of empirical studies of development.
  • HUDK 5125 - Cross-cultural psychology
    Survey of psychological studies of development in different cultures, with emphasis on perceptual and cognitive issues and methodological problems specific to cross-cultural research.
  • HUDK 5324 - Research Practicum
    Students learn research skills by participating actively in an ongoing faculty research project.
  • HUDK 6036 - Child and Family Policy I
    Provides a multi-disciplinary perspective on child and family policy. Also provides a foundation of knowledge concerning the role of child and family perspectives in informing policy.
  • HUDK 6520 - Development Over the Lifespan: Doctoral Seminar
    Permission required. How people become socialized and how psychology deals with the process in terms of developmental concepts.
  • HUDK 6901 - Advanced research and independent study
    Permission required.
  • HUDK 7501 - Dissertation seminar
    Permission required. Development of doctoral dissertations and presentation of plans for approval. Registration limited to two terms.
  • HUDK 8900 - Dissertation advisement - Developmental Psychology
    Individual advisement on doctoral dissertation. Fee to equal 3 points at current tuition rate for each term. See the section on Continuous Registration for Ed.D./Ph.D. degrees for details.
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