What is Human Development & Family Studies?

Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) focuses on the study of individual development throughout the lifespan. This is in pursuit of learning how people develop in many domains, such as:

  • Biological: how the body physically develops
  • Psychological: how the mind develops
  • Cognitive: how the thinking processes develop
  • Social: how interactions with others develop

The field of Human Development and Family Studies examines development through an ecological perspective. This perspective considers the individual and how his/her developmental experience is shaped by his/her environment and all the factors within it. It considers the complex interactions that occur within these settings, and how these interactions impact development.

Writing in HDFS

The focus of Human Development and Family Studies is to gain a better understanding of how people develop throughout the lifespan so that helping professionals can better serve individuals.

  • Writing in this field has a purpose! There are both theoretical and, more importantly, practical components of the field. HDFS stresses the importance of experiential learning and applying knowledge to real-world experiences. Your writing and understanding of the field could actually better someone’s life.

Human development is extremely interdisciplinary and draws on knowledge from the fields of psychology, biology, sociology, education, anthropology, and social work.

  • Writing in this field can vary greatly. You may be asked to write personal reflections on your own development, suggestions for policy makers, literature reviews, critiques or comparisons of theorists, etc.
  • Some writing assignments will require components of several of the genres listed above. For example, you might reflect on a service-learning experience by discussing what you learned, incorporating theory, and making suggestions for how to better the program.

Conventions for Writing in HDFS

In many courses in the Human Development and Family Studies discipline, there are similar general expectations. These begin in the introductory level classes, and continue onward into the upper level courses as well.

  • Critical Thinking: Critical thinking involves the mental process of observation, analysis, and evaluation. Critical thinking typically involves an objective observation, followed by an analysis of the event, which ties in class material and scholarly sources to these observations. Critical thinking is a huge component in many writing and in-class assignments in the HDFS discipline.
  • Using Scholarly Sources/Primary Sources: Scholarly sources are distinguishable from other popular sources because the publications are peer-reviewed. Primary sources are a source that comes directly from the author, such as a blog post or journal entry. Many classes in the HDFS discipline require Scholarly and/or Primary sources and have an expectation that the student can explain why a certain source is considered scholarly or primary. For more information on deciding how to classify a source, see: UVM Library Guide
  • A Well-Constructed Argument: Writing in the HDFS discipline often involves utilizing critical thinking to construct an argument on an assigned topic. It is essential for the writer to display critical thinking, as well as the ability to tie in class material and outside scholarly (or primary) sources to the piece. HDFS professors also look for the opposing argument to be discussed, and why this argument could be both valid and wrong. Professors are looking for evidence that the student understands the material, is able to reflect upon it in a way that demonstrates this understanding, and is able to create an argument supporting a thesis.
  • “College-Level Writing”: College-level writing is often listed in the “expectations” section of assignments in the HDFS discipline. This means that the professor is expecting the writer to be able to:
    • Use correct punctuation
    • Use proper grammar
    • Address the appropriate audience for the assignment
    • Write in an appropriate voice (Ask yourself: Is the “I” voice okay for the assignment? Should it be geared towards a more formal audience?)
  • APA Citation: HDFS is considered a social science, and therefore follows the guidelines set by the American Psychological Association on citations. For more information, see the APA citation page or go to the UVM Library Citation Guide.
  • Integrating Theory: Writing in the HDFS discipline typically includes discussing theory, and how certain theories may be applied and viewed in differing situations.