Developmental Psychology

The Developmental Area, often ranked among a handful of top PhD programs in Developmental Psychology, has research strengths in social and cognitive development from infancy through adulthood. Many faculty in the Psychology Department have developmental interests (complete list below), but the core Developmental faculty include:

  • Tobias Grossmann studies the developmental and brain origins of human social abilities and their variability in infancy.
  • Amrisha Vaish works on questions related to moral development.
  • Angeline Lillard studies early social cognition including pretend play and theory of mind, the impact of media on executive function, and Montessori education.
  • Vikram Jaswals research focuses on communication in autism.
  • Charlotte Patterson (also in Community Psychology) focuses on sexual orientation including development and relationships in lesbian and gay families. 
  • Joe Allen (also in Clinical and Community Psychology) studies adolescent social development including healthy teaching relationships.

We typically admit 1-3 new PhD students each admissions cycle. (We do not offer a terminal Master’s degree.) Students begin research with a primary mentor immediately on arrival, leading to the Master’s at the end of the second year (the “pre-diss”). Students are encouraged to conduct research in multiple labs, across Developmental and other areas. Coursework insuring basic developmental and statistical knowledge as well as ethics and more specialized seminars is completed in the first 2-3 years of the PhD program. Students work on their Comprehensive Exam during their third year, composed of a major paper or grant proposal, a complete course syllabus, and a journal article review, before embarking on the dissertation project for years 4+ (most students finish in 5-6 years). Normally, 8-12 students whose primary affiliation is Developmental Psychology are in residence.

We have an active teaching-to-teach program in the department helped by an excellent university-wide Teaching Resource Center; students begin with grading and running review sessions, then move to teaching discussion sections, and finally have the opportunity to apply to teach their own advanced undergraduate seminar. The amount of teaching depends on availability of research funding—some students obtain their own funding from the National Science Foundation or are funded on their advisors’ grants, in which case they might teach less.

Recent alumni have secured faculty placements at Amherst College, Applachian State University,  Providence College, University of Toronto, University of California (Davis and Riverside campuses), and Washington and Lee; post-docs at Temple University, the University of Delaware, and the University of Michigan; others are employed in children’s television and national child development research organizations.

All developmental faculty will be looking to admit graduate students to the Developmental Psychology program during the 2024-25 admission cycle for entrance in August 2025.  Prospective graduate students should visit the webpages of faculty with whom they are interested in working and contact those faculty members directly before applying.

Please note:

The application for the PhD programs in the Department of Psychology has eliminated the GRE requirement, beginning with the applications for the 2021 admissions. 

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