Family Relations and Human Development (MSc, PhD)

Graduate Studies in Family Relations and Human Development

The graduate program in Family Relations and Human Development (PDF file) take an interdisciplinary approach in the study of family dynamics and individual development within the context of the family across the life-span. The programs emphasize a balance between theory, empirical research and practice.

Students in FRHD have many options for building an individualized program of study combining coursework and thesis research. Each student works closely with an advisory committee to select courses that not only provide for interdisciplinary breadth but also address the student's specific research and professional goals.

The thesis for Master's students, and the Specialization Paper and Dissertation for the Doctoral students provide mechanisms for the development of specialized knowledge in areas of research interest. Building on core theory and methodology courses, students choose from professional and applied courses such as social policy, evidence based practice, assessment, and program evaluation. The programs have particular strengths in the following areas:

  • Child and Adolescent Development
  • Adult Development and Gerontology
  • Parent-Child and Family Relations
  • Human Sexuality
  • Couple and Family Therapy (MSc)

The programs are designed to meet the needs of students who have a variety of scholarly interests and career aspirations within Child and Adolescent Development, and Adult Development and Family Relationships. Students with an interest in Child and Adolescent Development will have the opportunity to develop knowledge of child and adolescent development in the contexts of family, peer group, school, and society. Areas of research include parent-child relationships, reciprocal interactions, socialization processes, personality and social development, the development of competence, and child care policy and programs.

The program is also designed to meet the needs of students interested in Adult Development and Family Relations. Students may focus on the individual, interpersonal and broader social contexts that influence adult development from young adulthood through mid-life and old age. Students will develop an understanding of adulthood from various biological, sociological and psychological perspectives with a particular emphasis on development within a family context.

The family roles and relations research area is concerned with the dynamic, developmental and structural aspects of family experience. Students may focus on issues ranging from family identity to social policies affecting families. Students choosing this specialization could consider careers in the following areas: family life education, consultant work in family policy, social service intervention work, or advanced study at the Doctoral level. Students interested in human sexuality learn about current theory and research in human sexuality from an interdisciplinary perspective and have the opportunity to develop professional skills in sex education and/or counselling. Master's students may be interested in positions as counsellors, school board consultants, family planning counsellors and educators in health units, AIDS educators, and community college teachers. Advanced study can be pursued at the Doctoral level. Research in social gerontology focuses on the processes and contexts of development in later life. This involves social-psychological analyses of the interaction among individuals within evolving social contexts through the family life course. The course work and thesis supervision are designed to lead to advanced graduate study at the PhD level, or application in a variety of human service work contexts.

Careers in Family Relations & Human Development

Careers in Research

The primary goal of the graduate programs in Family Relations and Human Development for those students who wish to pursue a career in research and scholarship is to develop skills in generating and evaluating new knowledge through research. Students graduating from the MSc program with this interest would generally seek to continue their studies at the doctoral level or seek employment that would involve the application and evaluation of research in applied settings. Doctoral graduates would likely seek employment with academic or research settings.

Professional Careers

Those students who are primarily interested in a professional career in the delivery of program and services to children and their families will find a range of courses that complement their research training. The program provides a solid knowledge base for the development, operation and evaluation of programs for children and adolescents. While some graduates with these interests may elect to proceed to the doctoral program, others will seek employment in a direct service or supervisory capacity in government or in an agency in the community. Some will be employed as educators in community colleges. Doctoral graduates may seek employment in the private sector and with public agencies as policy advisors, researchers and educators.

What FRHD Graduates Say:

"I have had many outstanding opportunities to participate in a wide array of research experiences both connected to and outside of this program. I have also worked with a number of faculty who have been wonderful mentors and have found that the other students in the program provide a great deal of peer mentoring to each other."

 "I've had a very easy transition to grad school.  The staff and faculty are very supportive and helpful, and my peers are enthusiastic and friendly."

"Being a graduate student at the University of Guelph in FRHD has been rewarding, challenging, and exciting. I am receiving numerous opportunities to be involved with cutting edge research in sexuality and the chance to help plan the next Guelph Sexuality Conference. Because of the small size of our department it allows for a friendly and collaborative environment where the students can get to know one another. The staff are not only helpful and resourceful, they also take the time to know the students by name and are an integral part of the program. Possibilities for financial aid has exceeded my expectations and allowed me to focus on my studies."

"The support I have received from faculty during my graduate program has been exceptional. I have had the opportunity to work with my own advisor as well as other faculty members on my own research project and some of theirs. They have provided me with support and guidance and enhanced my graduate education."

"I have had the privilege of working on research projects beyond my own thesis research. I have worked with faculty from this and other departments in the university on a variety of interesting research projects including community engaged research. I learned so much about the process and methods of conducting research from these opportunities."