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PhD, Family Science

Family of three laughing

Examine family processes and the dynamic interaction of families with their communities

This exciting program examines both internal family processes and the dynamic interaction of families with the biological, psychological, social, political and economic aspects of their environment.

Perfect for...

  • Students looking for a small student-to-faculty ratio, award-winning faculty with active research programs, mentors with diverse research expertise and a culturally sensitive learning environment. 

Career Paths

  • Public, non-profit, and private sectors
  • University teaching
  • Research
  • Family policy analysis
  • Administrative positions in human service programs

Program Overview

The Ph.D. program adopts an ecological or systems approach to the study of families and the problems they face in today's society. The program of study provides doctoral students with a broad knowledge of family theory, research methodology, family policy, family programs, ethnic families, and major issues confronting contemporary families. Students also learn to design, implement, and evaluate culturally-sensitive interventions addressing family needs and to analyze the consequences of public/private policies on family well-being.

Visit the Department of Family Science site.

For more information, see the Family Science flyer.

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In four-in-ten families, mom is the primary breadwinner.

Upon graduating with a Ph.D. in Family Science, students will be able to:

  • Design and evaluate programmatic interventions to address social, behavioral, health, economic, and other family issues. 
  • Demonstrate cultural sensitivity in research, program planning and evaluation, and policy related to family health and well-being. 
  • Analyze family health policy, evaluate health care policy issues, and conduct a family impact study. 
  • Design and implement a theory-based research project that addresses a significant family or family health issue and write an empirical manuscript for publication. 

The Family Science Ph.D. program requires 57 graduate credit hours, including family science core courses (20 credits), research methods courses (16 credits), electives (6 credits), research internship (3 credits), and dissertation credits (12 credits). Please consult with your advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies as individual study plans may differ. All Ph.D. students must have a Master’s Degree from an accredited or approved program prior to matriculation to the Ph.D. program. All Ph.D. students must pass a qualifying examination with its oral defense and complete a dissertation with its oral defense. 

Explore All Degree requirements on the UMD Catalog
Course Title Credits Description
FMSC-610: Foundations of Public Health 1 Research methods in family science. The role of theory, design, use of qualitative and quantitative measurement techniques, data collection and data analysis. Development of research proposals.
SPHL-600: Foundations of Public Health 3 An overview of the goals, functions, and methods of public health. After an introduction to the core concepts and tools used in public health research and practice, applications of these methodologies are considered in the context of current controversies/problems in public health. Students work together to develop strategies for prevention and control that taken into consideration different points of view, outside research, and impacts on individuals and communities.
FMSC-750: Family and Health Policy 3 Development and analysis of public policies affecting the health and well-being of children, youth, and families, with an emphasis on low income and ethnic minority populations. Examination of social, economic, and political dynamics that influence family and health policies and the delivery of health care. Introduction to health advocacy within the US public health system.
EDMS-646: General Linear Models I 3 A first post-introductory inferential statistics course, with emphasis on analysis of variance procedures and designs from within the general linear modeling framework. Assignments include student analysis of education and related data; application of statistical software packages is emphasized.
FMSC-850: Maternal & Child Health Epidemiology 3 Determinants and trends in Maternal and Child Health, including analysis of the role of economic inequalities, race and ethnicity, community contexts, and psychosocial factors across the life course. Overview of methods and data systems used to monitor Maternal and Child Health. Development of a complete population health study.
FMSC-810: Theory in Family Systems and Family Health 3 Theory and research on family interaction and family coping with normative health and mental health transitions and non-normative crises across the family life cycle. Micro-analysis of family process in communication, decision-making, problem-solving, and compliance to health regimens. Examination of dysfunctional patterns and effective coping strategies.
EDMS-651: General Linear Models II // EDMS-645: Quantitative Research Methods I 3 (Either/Or) Multiple regression and correlation analysis; trend analysis; hierarchical and stepwise procedures; logistic regression; software for regression analysis. // Research design and statistical applications in educational research: data representation; descriptive statistics; estimation and hypothesis testing. Application of statistical computer packages is emphasized.
FMSC-606: Ethnic Families and Health Disparities 3 Historical, psychosocial, economic, and political factors influencing the structure and functioning of ethnic families. Overview of racial and ethnic health disparities over the life course and ways in which they are influenced by multi-level contextual factors.
FMSC-660: Program Planning and Evaluation in Family Science 3 Theory and methods of program planning and evaluation with special emphasis on family programs. Assessment of program goals and the social and psychological factors involved in program implementation. Methods for measuring the effectiveness of program delivery, as well as the impact of services on family functioning.
FMSC-780: Qualitative Methods in Family and Health Research 3 Theoretical perspectives and methodological tools to conduct research with individuals and families across the life span. Review of research designs, participant fieldwork, observation and interview projects, data collection, computer-assisted data analysis, and development of grounded theory.
FMSC-820: Advanced Quantitative Methods in Family and Health Research 3 This seminar is designed to help students understand, evaluate, and develop research conceptualization and design relevant to family science and family health. By the end of the course, students will be able to critique and develop theoretically grounded quantitative research in their respective area of study. Throughout the course, students will be exposed to a broad range of advanced methods that are core to the field of family science. The course will train students on how to conceptualize and develop rigorous empirical research studies relevant to family science and family health.
FMSC-879: Preparing Future Faculty and Professionals Seminar 1 Development of skills necessary to obtain and succeed in academic and non-academic positions in family science and public health. Topics include: career mapping, networking, teaching/teaching portfolios, independent research, publishing, grant writing, program and policy evaluation, consulting, job search, interviewing and negotiation, mentoring, diversity, work-family balance, and ethical issues in the workplace. Periodic visits to universities and government/nonprofit employers.
FMSC-689: Research Internship 3 Research experience resulting in a scholarly article suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
FMSC-899: Doctoral Dissertation Research 12 Doctoral Dissertation Research
FMSC-686: Law, Public Health and the Cuban Family (Elective) 4 A comparison of family problems in the United States, a capitalist society, with Cuba, a socialist one, as evaluated within the context of legal, public health, social, cultural, and economic changes. The highlight of the course is time spent in Havana, Cuba where students may gain first-hand knowledge of these issues through visits to a hospital, fertility clinic, rural doctor's office, medical school, law offices, museums, and a slave rebellion site and while meeting with the U.S. Ambassador in Cuba, Cuban judges, lawyers, doctors, professors, and health care professionals and the Cuban people as their host families and beyond.
FMSC-760: Legal Issues & Families (Elective) 3 Analysis of marriage and family issues from a legal perspective. Review of legal decisions affecting families, including procreative rights, marriage, termination of marriage, parental and child rights, adoption, child custody, and child/family medical treatment. Relationship between family law and family policy.
FMSC-667: Restorative Justice and Family Health -- Comparing Educational and Correctional Practices in the U.S. and Norway (Elective) 3 Short-term study abroad course that provides students with a unique opportunity to compare philosophies of restorative justice and the effects of individual autonomy within educational and correctional practices in the U.S. and Norway. This course teaches students valuable comparative and evaluative skills in this cross-cultural experience. Students of all levels can benefit from this unique opportunity and the course content overlaps with several disciplines including family science, education, criminology and criminal justice, public health, public policy, politics and political science, social work, psychology, and other related disciplines.