Developmental Psychology

Prospective Students

The mission of the Ph.D. Program in Developmental Psychology is to provide students with a strong foundation in developmental theories and research from a lifespan perspective. The program focuses, in particular, on the ways in which culture and context shape developmental processes including social and emotional, cognitive, identity, and language development. Students used mixed methods (e.g., survey, observational, semi-structured interviews, experimental) to examine individual and environmental influences at multiple, nested levels on the development of infants, preschoolers, children, adolescents and adults, especially in urban environments.

Students in the Ph.D program are required to take a rich assortment of classes focused on developmental theory and research, as well as advanced seminars that examine topics such as theories of change at the individual and institution level and theories of culture from psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Students are also required to take at least 6 courses (18 credits) in research methods that focus on either quantitative or qualitative methods. Finally, they are required to engage in community and/or laboratory-based research for the entire length of their studies. This requirement involves working closely with faculty on research and also acquiring research experience in the context and/or culture under investigation. This latter requirement is based on our philosophy that in order to conduct developmental research that is ecologically grounded, the doctoral student must have experience working in the contexts and/or cultures in which they are examining. Our research takes place in laboratories at New York University, as well as in the homes, daycares, schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, and community settings of the multi-ethnic and richly diverse City of New York. We also conduct international research in countries such as China, India, South Africa, and Peru.

Areas of Research Focus

  • The intersections between culture, context, and human development.
  • Family and school influences on human development
  • Cognitive, language, and social development in infants and young children, including research on at-risk and international populations
  • Children's learning, academic achievement and attitudes toward school
  • Social and emotional development among children and adolescents in the U.S. and worldwide
  • Etiology of risk behaviors, resiliency, and coping in at-risk populations
  • Identity development among adolescents from diverse cultural communities

What expertise do graduate students acquire in the Psychological Development program?

  • A strong foundation in the core areas of Developmental Psychology with a focus on how culture and context shapes developmental processes.
  • The ability to think critically and creatively about how basic research can address the social problems faced by individuals in a multi-cultural, urban society.
  • A wide range of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, including survey research, experimental, observational, ethnographic, narrative and case studies.
  • The skills to identify the influences of family members, peers, schools, neighborhoods and communities on the developmental trajectories of individuals, as well as how individuals shape their own experiences.
  • An understanding of how ethnicity, race, social class, gender, sexual orientation, and health influence human development within and across national boundaries.

Program Requirements

Students take between 45 and 72 credits, depending upon prior graduate course work. Academic offerings/requirements include:

  • Core courses in the foundational areas of psychology
  • Courses covering a variety of developmental processes (e.g., Cognitive Development, Social Development, Language Development)
  • Seminar courses on advanced topics in developmental psychology
  • Research classes in quantitative and qualitative methodologies
  • Advanced statistical classes (eg., HLM, SEM) 

(See more on course offerings!)


Associate Professor Jacqueline Mattis gives an overview of doctoral study in Applied Psychology and answers questions from future students

Study abroad opportunities

NYU offers a global experience of the world for students who are interested in study abroad experiences in sites such as Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Ghana and more. Find out more about the study abroad program.

Erika Niwa, a student in the Psychological Development program, was a recipient of a fellowship that took her to China. Read what she has to say about her experience.

Juliette Berg, another doctoral student in Psychological Development, had the opportunity to study in Paris, France.

What positions do graduates of Psychological Development at NYU obtain?

  • Professors in academic settings
  • Researchers in academic, community and governmental agencies
  • Human service professionals in hospitals, schools, and community settings
  • Directors and evaluators of mental health and health-promotion programs