Psychology PhD (developmental)

The PhD in Developmental Psychology aims to understand and improve the lives of children, young adults, and of those entering the late-life years. Through the innovative combination of community-based interventions, community embedded basic science and psychopathology, the Developmental Psychology program offers unique opportunities for students to build both skills and relationships across the university and local communities. Your research at ASU will have practical application and you will be able to see the difference that you make in the lives of real people. We are the forefront of science and development and your discoveries will change the lives of families in need across the nation. Research done at ASU includes alcohol intervention work among at-risk teens and research into improving coping and anxiety among children. For a full list of labs, visit the Developmental Labs section of the website here.

The Doctor of Philosophy program in psychology with an emphasis on developmental psychology offers training on human development and the application of knowledge. By development, we mean the transformations and changes that occur during the life cycle and the processes that influence domains such as the: behavioral, cognitive, social, and emotional. By application, we mean how the knowledge gained from research can be applied to the improvement of developmental outcomes, such as through policymaking or within educational, clinical, and social settings.

Developmental psychologists work in a variety of settings, including academia, government agencies, health care facilities and schools. Those working in colleges and universities tend to focus primarily on research or teaching. Others working in applied settings, such as health care facilities or clinics, help to assess, evaluate and treat people living with developmental disabilities. Developmental psychologists may work with any part of life cycle, from young to old-age populations. 

IMPORTANT: To be considered for PhD program, you must complete the application through ASU's online portal AND submit your material through Slideroom

6th in graduate faculty placement
7 research labs
11 core faculty members

Degree Overview

The 84-hour program of study includes a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive, a prospectus and a dissertation. Prospective doctoral candidates should have a passion and interest in cognitive science, have demonstrated research skills in a senior thesis, have a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA and score in the upper quintile of GRE scores. 

Focus Areas

ASU’s doctoral program in Developmental Psychology program offers the following areas of specialization, all emphasizing developmental psychopathology and community collaborations in interventions and research.

Community-based Interventions. The Community-based Interventions area offers training on understanding theory and mechanisms of change in interventions, with attention to etiology, program design and implementation, as well as outcome evaluations. The emphasis is on delivering interventions in communities (rather than in research labs) using collaborations in “real-world” settings. Themes include academic success, prevention and early intervention of mental health problems, and the promotion of positive adjustment and resilient adaptation across developmental periods.

Community Embedded Basic Science. The Community Embedded Basic Science area offers training on language, social, emotional, and cognitive changes from infancy into childhood, with research being conducted in community-based organizations. Principal settings for the work include families’ homes and educational (preschools, k-12, Children’s Art Museum) institutions. This area offers unique opportunities to build relationships with partners across the university and with local communities and its organizations.

Developmental Psychopathology. The Developmental Psychopathology area of emphasis offers training on the origins, correlates, course, and sequelae of atypical development both negative and positive in nature (disorder and resilience) as well as normal developmental processes. Training in this area is sometimes used to formulate and evaluate treatment and preventive intervention programs. Of interest is the identification not only of risks and vulnerabilities, but the protective mechanisms that promote optimal outcomes and resilience.

How to apply

The Department of Psychology application process is completed online through ASU Graduate Admissions. Prospective students must submit the admission application form along with the fee and official transcripts.

For the department’s doctoral programs, students must submit supplemental application materials through SlideRoom, which requires an additional fee. For complete instructions for applying to the PhD program, visit our Doctoral Admission requirements page. 

"I was especially drawn to the Developmental area's diverse and transdisciplinary research interests. ASU has relationships with many community organizations and resources can provide me the opportunity to engage in unique training and experiences."

- Reagan Breitenstein , Doctoral Student, Developmental Psychology


Graduate students in Developmental Psychology receive coursework training in the areas listed below. The total number of hours required by the Graduate College for the PhD is 84; 42 of coursework and 42 of research/reading & conference. Other courses offered by developmental faculty, affiliated faculty, visiting professors, or offered in other departments may be substituted by approval of the developmental faculty.

Requirements and electives


Core courses








Total hours required


Courses and electives

Expand the options below to see what courses are available in each required area. Graduate students are expected to complete 84 credit hours. 

Developmental Theory Courses. Students are required to take at least one course:

  • CDE 531 Theoretical Issues in Child Development
  • PSY 591 Advanced Developmental Psychology
  • PSY 591 Lifespan Developmental
  • PSY 591 Theories of Development

Developmental Methods Courses. Students are required to take at least one course:

  • PSY 600 Developmental Research Methods
  • CDE 533 Research Issues in Child Development
  • PSY 555 Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs
  • PSY 600 Research Methods
  • PSY 536 Methods in Prevention Research
  • PSY 591 Methods in Developmental Psychobiology

Quantitative Courses. Students are required to take at least four of the following courses:

  • PSY 530 Analysis of Variance
  • PSY 531 Multiple Regression Analysis
  • PSY 532 Analysis of Multivariate Data
  • PSY 533 Structural Equation Modeling
  • PSY 591 Multilevel Modeling
  • PSY 591 Longitudinal Data Analyses
  • PSY 591 Statistical Mediation Analyses
  • PSY 591 Missing Data Analyses
  • PSY 591 Multivariate Analysis of Variance
  • PSY 539/540 Meta-Analysis
  • PSY 591 Advanced Regression and Graphics
  • PSY 591 Item Response Theory
  • PSY 537 Longitudinal Growth Modeling
  • PSY 538  Advanced Structural Equation Modeling

Plus others that may be offered outside the Department of Psychology, such as longitudinal modeling, categorical data analysis, qualitative data analysis, time series analysis, subject to approval by the developmental faculty.

Depth Courses: Topical Courses of a Developmental Nature. Students are required to take at least four courses with at least two from developmental faculty:

  • PSY 542 Social Development
  • PSY 591 Social-Cognitive Development—Theory of Mind
  • PSY 591 Language Development
  • PSY 591 Research in Cognitive Development
  • PSY 591 Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood
  • PSY 591 Emotional Development
  • PSY 591 Moral Development
  • PSY 591 Home Impact on Child Development
  • PSY 591 Childcare, Early Education, and Child Development
  • PSY 591/CDE 612 Children’s Peer Relationships
  • PSY 591 Successful Aging
  • PSY 591 Resilience Processes and Development
  • PSY 591 Methods in Developmental Psychobiology
  • PSY 591 Developmental Behavior Genetics
  • PSY 578 Developmental Psychopathology
  • CDE 534 Risk and Resilience
  • CDE 610 Gender and Development
  • CDE 634 Prevention and Child Development

Plus others that may be offered outside the Department of Psychology, such as speech and language development, subject to approval by the developmental faculty.

Professional Development. 

  • PSY 591 Teaching of Psychology
  • PSY 501 Supervised Teaching
  • PSY 591 Professional Writing and Reviewing
  • PSY 591 Grant Writing/Professional Development
  • PSY 680 Topics in Professional Development (1-3 credit option)

Breadth Courses: Psychological Foundations. Students are required to take at least two courses from other areas within the department that will provide the student with a broader perspective including the social, cognitive, and/or biological bases of human behavior. These courses are taught by Department of Psychology faculty; coursework from other departments or schools are subject to approval from the developmental faculty.

Research: Reading & Conference, Master’s Thesis. Students are required to take 42 research credits and this requirement could be satisfied with some combination of masters, dissertation, RA, and supervised research via the courses listed below. When those 42 credits are completed, there are no more research requirements.

  • PSY 592 Supervised Research or PSY 590 Reading and Conference (at least 9 credits)
  • PSY 599 Master’s Thesis (at least 6 credits)
  • PSY 792 Post-Master’s Research or PSY 790 Reading and Conference (at least 15 credits)
  • PSY 799 Dissertation Research (at least 12 credits)

Transfer students: with the approval of the degree program and ASU's Graduate College, students may include a maximum of 12 graduate-level credit hours with grades of “B” or better that were not used towards a previous degree. Preadmission credits must have been taken within three years of admission to the ASU degree program to be accepted. The PhD program can also accept an admitted students Master’s degree and this would count as 30 credits towards the 84 required  for the program. 

Developmental Research Laboratories

Adolescent Stress and Emotion Lab (Doane)

Child Emotion Center (Lemery-Chalfant)

Courage Lab (Pina)

Healthy Aging and Life Events Lab (Infurna)

Luthar Lab (Luthar)

Science of Learning and Educational Technology (SoLET) Lab (McNamara)

Theory of Mind / Father and Divorce Labs (Fabricius)

Heart Healthy Experiences Across Relationships and Transitions Lab (Ha)

Learning and Development Lab (Benitez)

Application requirements are found in the doctoral admissions pages. To apply for doctoral training in Developmental Psychology register with the graduate college HERE.

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