Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies
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Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies

Bridget A. Walsh, Dana A. Weiser, Lydia DeFlorio, Melissa M. Burnham

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eBook - ePub

Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies

Bridget A. Walsh, Dana A. Weiser, Lydia DeFlorio, Melissa M. Burnham

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About This Book

Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies is the first text to introduce human development and family studies (HDFS) as inextricably linked areas of study, giving students a complex yet realistic view of individuals and families. Pioneers of research paradigms have acknowledged that the family is one setting in which human development occurs. Moreover, in many academic programs, the lines of these two disciplines blur and much work is inherently multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. This book helps to fortify an understanding of HDFS and subareas within it.

Vignettes from current HDFS students as well as new professionals, an overview of the lifespan stage(s) within the family context, a wide description of research methods and applications, current policy issues relevant to the area, and discussions of practice/careers coupled with strategies for pursuing specializations or careers in the area are hallmarks of this textbook. Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies is essential reading for students new to the major and minor wanting to know:

  • What is HDFS?
  • Who are the people involved in HDFS?
  • Why is HDFS important?
  • How does theory and research inform work in HDFS?
  • What does the pursuit of being an ethical professional require?
  • What are the key areas in HDFS?

Incredibly user-friendly both on the page and online, the text also features the following resources:

  • Chapter Summaries where the main points of each chapter are pinpointed at the end of every chapter for review and study.

  • Key Terms listed and defined within the margins of every chapter, a complete Glossary at the end of the text, and Flashcards online for additional review and study.

  • Challenge: Integration section at the end of each chapter that underscores concepts from the chapter and draws connections between content presented in other chapters.

  • Journal Questions to encourage reflection about the content and encourage thinking about some of the content coupled with students' own experiences.

  • Suggested Resources that lists relevant websites, books, articles, and video links for further study.

  • A Closer Look at Applied Experiences Appendix outlines the internship process and shows how the internship experience can be meaningful and useful, and a Consuming Research Appendix that focuses on what it means to be a consumer of research, the knowledge and skills consumers need, and considerations for transitioning from a consumer of research to a producer of research.

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What Is HDFS?


The professions and areas you are exploring through this text are within the area of human development and family studies (HDFS). Some programs are called HDFS, child and family studies, family studies, family and child studies, or other similar names. The varying names often create a fragmented identity; however, many courses in these programs are similar. HDFS is a relatively young field (Hamon & Smith, 2014) and the term HDFS will be used throughout this text to capture the variety of programs that prepare professionals and emerging professionals to work with individuals and families. The family can be thought of as one context or a setting that contributes to human development. Bronfenbrenner (1986) asserted that the family is the main context in which human development occurs. Traditionally, some academic programs have been organized around one area of focus, such as families, or the other: individuals. On one hand, human development is the study of how humans change and maintain some characteristics from conception to senescence, or aging. On the other hand, family studies is the study of a variety of family forms and how families function.
Strictly speaking, these definitions suggest that a developmentalist looks at individuals within families while a family scientist focuses on families that comprise individuals. In many programs, the lines of these two traditional disciplines blur (Blume & Benson, 1997) and many programs at the very least recognize the interaction of individual development in the context of the family (Adams, 1997; Boyd, 1997). The field of HDFS is inherently multidisciplinary, meaning that it often involves taking college courses from faculty and professionals with some training in psychology, education, and other fields in one program (O’Brien, 2005). Professional organizations, such as the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) and the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), explicitly promote multidisciplinary (as well as interdisciplinary) research and practice and emphasize the advantages of it. However, when multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary training are involved, it is easy for students to feel like “jacks- and jills-of-all trades, but master/mistress of none” (Ganong, Coleman, & Demo, 1995, p. 506). As you explore HDFS, the acknowledgment of a complex view of both individuals within families and families comprising individuals will gain greater importance.
Image 1.1 Early Childhood Education Trains Emerging Professionals to Work with Children from Birth to 8 Years of Age (photo by Monkey Business/Depositphotos, Inc.).
We next advocate for a small core-body of knowledge that is essential to know in an introduction to studying the area of HDFS. We suspect that, despite multidisciplinary perspectives, the following introductory information would be met with some degree of consensus as the core foundation for a student in HDFS to master.


The basic tenet of human development is that “people change and grow as long as they live” (Bredehoft, Eckhoff, & Gesme, 2003, p. 75). The average life expectancy, or the number of years the family of a newborn could expect him or her to live, is approximately 78 years (Administration on Aging, 2012). There are many ages and stages prior to the developmental period of late adulthood. The journey of development starts with conception, when the sperm and ovum unite. Approximately 9 months later, birth occurs and the developmental stages that follow are: infancy and toddlerhood (0 to 2 years), early childhood (2 to 6 years), middle childhood (6 to 11 years), adolescence (11 to 18 years), emerging adulthood (18 to 25 years), adulthood (25 to 65 years), and late adulthood (65 to death). There are many milestones or characteristics of each stage, some of which will be discussed in later chapters.
As shown in Figure 1.1, developmentalists study each age and stage with consideration given to three domains or the “PIE.” The “P” is for the Physical domain, the “I” is for the Intellectual domain, and the “E” is for the Emotional domain. The physical domain includes biological aspects such as genes, brain and body development, and nutrition. The intellectual domain includes cognitive aspects such as language, cognition, and intelligences. The emotional domain includes socio-emotional aspects such as relationships, emotions, and motivations. It makes intuitive sense that the three domains are interrelated. Consider that if a person is hungry and did not get proper sleep (both examples of the physical domain), the person will most likely not be able to problem solve effectively during class (cognitive domain), and may be more easily upset or insensitive to the feelings of others (emotional domain).


Most professionals tend to value a framework that focuses on individual and family strengths rather than deficits in all families (Patterson, 2002). A family is a group of people that is united by marriage and/or adoption, blood, interpersonal relationships, or law. There is a widely accepted acknowledgment of families’ importance on an individual child’s domains of development, making it important for professionals to understand family forms and strategies to support them (Powell, 1989). Given the various possibilities of family ties, families are made up a multiplicity of forms.
Marriage is an important part of family studies (Seltzer, 2000). Dimensions of marriage behavior can include: (1) companionship, or the extent to which partners do things together; (2) the affective tone of the relationship, such as the extent of affection, quantity of conflict and negativity; and (3) involvement that spouses have with friends and the like (McHale & Huston, 1985). Marriage and the dimensions of it can be thought of as only one part of the core of family studies knowledge. The core of family studies can also include: family and relationships, a multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary approach to studying individuals and families, a focus on multiple perspectives, such as family systems, family strengths, life span, and ecosystem, an emphasis on prevention, and 10 content areas (e.g., human sexuality) of family life education (FLE) (Hamon & Smith, 2014).
Image 1.2 The Basic Tenet of Human Development Is that People Change and Grow as Long as They Live (photo by Michele Piacquadio/Depositphotos, Inc.).
Family forms can include a variety of forms and all are important. A nuclear family or conjugal family includes parents and their offspring. A single parent family includes a parent and one or more children. An extended family encompasses relatives (e.g., a grandmother, a mother, and her daughter or three generations) that live together in a household or in close proximity. A blended family results when a person remarries another person. Typically, one of the parties has a child or children and if either has children, it is classified as a step-family.
There are many other family forms, including: a cohabitating family (Seltzer, 2000), a foster family, such as kinship care (Berrick, 1997), a conditionally separated family, such as a military family (Drummet, Coleman, & Cable, 2003), a polygamous family (Al-Krenawi & Graham, 2006), and grandparents-as-parents (Hayslip & Kaminski, 2005). Family function is overall more important than family form. Family function is how a family operates to meet the needs of and care for each other (e.g., economic support or emotional security). Family processes matter more than structure for individual and family functioning (Walsh, 1996). Family processes, such as caring and problem solving, are essential to family functioning and wellbeing (Walsh, 2003).

Table of contents

Citation styles for Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies
APA 6 Citation
Walsh, B., Weiser, D., DeFlorio, L., & Burnham, M. (2017). Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2017)
Chicago Citation
Walsh, Bridget, Dana Weiser, Lydia DeFlorio, and Melissa Burnham. (2017) 2017. Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Walsh, B. et al. (2017) Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Walsh, Bridget et al. Introduction to Human Development and Family Studies. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2017. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.