The scientific study of human development focuses on issues of growth, development, and behavioral change across the lifespan. The curriculum concentrates on development from birth through adolescence and into older ages, and is designed to emphasize the idea of development as an essential perspective from which to understand human behavior. The courses cover a broad spectrum of issues in human development - from brain and perceptual development, to reasoning and problem solving, to social interaction and the evolution of cultural systems. The Human Development Program unifies and coordinates the excellent research and teaching resources currently available on campus in this area, and profiles the factors which influence the ways in which humans develop and change.
The program is divided very broadly into three areas, Biological Development, Ontogenetic Development, and Socio-Cultural Development. An important aspect of the program is the emphasis on the integration of information across these different developmental perspectives, and the view that understanding of development from any given perspective requires consideration of the contributions of factors operating from these perspectives.
This area emphasizes the sensory and biological bases of development. It focuses on the dynamics of development and change in the neurological substrate which mediates mental functioning, and on the sensory and perceptual processes which are basic to the development of cognitive and social functioning.
This area focuses on intellectual and emotional development across the life span. It examines the development of both linguistic and cognitive processes, and the affective and temperamental factors which shape our interaction with others.
Humans live in families, attend school, and participate in communities. Each of these institutions contributes to the development of skills in the individual. Courses in this area focus on family relations, peer interaction, the effects of schooling and literacy in young children, and the activities of play, theories of child development, differing cultural perspectives on children and adolescents, social and health policy issues for the elderly, and eventually courses focused on the history of childhood and public policy for children.