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Child Development

Summary of Major

The Child Development major is for students who wish to study children (infancy through adolescence) and the major contexts—family, cultural, peer, school, and neighborhood—in which they live. The 30-hour major is designed to provide a strong background in the social and behavioral sciences. The particular focus of the Child Development major is understanding the scientific study of the biological, cognitive, and social development of young humans. The major is excellent preparation for graduate study in selected social science and professional fields (e.g., psychology, medicine, nursing, education, and public policy) and offers an appropriate complementary (or second) major for undergraduate students simultaneously pursing a major in Cognitive Studies, Early Childhood or Elementary Education, Human and Organizational Development, or Special Education.

The curriculum is designed to ensure that students develop a background in the liberal arts and science and a clear understanding of the theories, major research findings, and research methods central to the field of Child Development. Additionally, students choose and develop an area of expertise in Child Development. Based on their interests, students select classes from the Liberal Education Core, composed of required and elective courses in Communication, Humanities, Mathematics, Natural Science, and Social Science.

A clear understanding of developmental theory and research central to the field is attained through the major core courses. These courses include an overview of Child Development, courses focused on particular aspects of human development (cognition; social and personality development), courses related to major epochs of child development (infancy and adolescence); and courses devoted to the major research methodologies in the field (experimental and psychometric). The major allows students to take a host of elective courses allowing individualization within the major.

Recently Offered Courses

Developmental Psychology; Infancy; Cognitive Aspects of Human Development; Adolescent Development; Social and Personality Development; Statistical Analysis; Who Needs Parents? Babies in the News; The Development of Black Children; Experimental Methods; Psychometric Methods; How Children Learn Math; Harry Potter and Child Development.

Honors Program

The Honors Program in Child Development offers qualified majors the opportunity to conduct individual research projects in collaboration with faculty members. This research experience includes the writing and public presentation of a senior thesis. Students who major in Child Development are eligible to apply for the honors program at the end of their sophomore year if they have an overall grade point average of at least 3.2 and a 3.2 in Child Development courses. Students who complete the program successfully and who have a final grade point average of at least 3.2 will receive Honors or Highest Honors in Child Development. The program is highly appropriate for those intending to pursue graduate work.

Undergraduate Research

The major provides opportunities for supervised and independent research that enables students to link theories and prior research learned in the classroom to research design and data from their own studies of children. Students have the opportunity to work direction with faculty to learn about the research process. This research experience is a great way for students to develop inquiry and research skills that can be invaluable when continuing to graduate school.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

The Child Development Program encourages an interdisciplinary approach to studying child development. Students may choose elective courses in special education, cognitive studies, psychology, and educational psychology, along with other as a part of their Child Development major. The Child Development major can be a second major for College of Arts and Science students.

After Vanderbilt

Our graduates are prepared to pursue graduate studies in areas that focus on children as well as careers such as child advocacy and service provision. Recent graduates of the Child Development program have entered a wide array of occupational and graduate school arenas. Graduates have attended graduate schools in fields of clinical psychology, medical school, education, and law school. Others have gone directly into the fields of education (for example with Teach For America), non-profit, and research.

Almaz Mesghina (2016): PHD program at the University of Chicago in Comparative Human Development

Cici Zhang (2017): International Educational Development program at the University of Pennsylvania this year after spending her summer interning in India with Sesame Street

Shannon Shiffer (2018): UT Austin's clinical nurse specialist program this past summer

Mackenize Swirlburl (2017): Grant program officer for child development research in NYC


Faculty in the department have a wide range of research interests, including adolescent depression, how learning to read changes the brain, technology in education, and the improvement of parental participation in schools, to name just a few. But, in keeping with the Peabody tradition, the focus is always on the child. “Our projects and research support the goal of the college,” says faculty member Kathleen Hoover-Dempsey, “which is to figure out how to improve human development and education. One of the things that makes us unique is that we focus on psychological problems and issues that have to do with the development of children, and we look particularly at families and schools as contexts in which child development occurs."


Leigh Wadsworth
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Psychology & Human Development
Peabody College #552
230 Appleton Place
Nashville, TN  37203-5701
(615) 322-5566

Child Development Website