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Developmental Science is the study of nature and basis of change across development, including prenatal, early postnatal, infancy, toddler, early childhood, adolescence and emerging adulthood.

Our faculty focus on basic theory in developmental science, articulating underlying mechanisms of change, examining contextual effects on growth and development, examining individual differences in trajectories characterizing typical and atypical development, and investigating those factors that affect optimal development.

  • Concentrations

    We offer two areas of research focus in our program for doctoral students: Early Development and Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development. These two concentrations stem from faculty strengths in overlapping lifespan research areas. Doctoral students are encouraged to assemble their own research interests within these two concentrations based on areas of overlap in faculty expertise.

    Early Development: Perceptual, Cognitive, & Social

    Faculty research interests cluster in early perceptual, cognitive, social, and language development. We offer a strong emphasis in basic research from a developmental systems perspective, integrating developmental psychology, psychobiology, and neuroscience to focus on behavioral, as well as neural and physiological levels of analysis of typical as well as atypical development. Our focus is on building theory in developmental science, articulating underlying mechanisms of change and discovering general principles of development using both group-level analyses and individual difference approaches. Faculty focus on understanding the development of early language skills (Pruden, Bahrick, Dick, Nelson), spatial knowledge and numerosity (Pruden), intersensory processing (Bahrick, Lickliter, Dick), attention/executive function (Bahrick, Lickliter, Reeb-Sutherland, Dick), motor development (Nelson), and how individual differences in basic skills (motor, attention, perception, learning) cascade to more complex later developing skills and to optimal cognitive and social outcomes (Bahrick, Nelson, Reeb-Sutherland). The majority of our research focuses on typically developing infants and children, but we also have strong comparative programs (Lickliter, bobwhite quail; Nelson, primates) and an emphasis on atypical populations such as autism (Bahrick, Reeb-Sutherland), anxiety (Reeb-Sutherland), and speech and reading disorders (Bahrick, Dick).

    Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development: Social & Emotional Development

    The Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development concentration in the Developmental Psychology Program examines the psychology of social and emotional development during early adolescence through emerging adulthood. Our Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development foci includes intrapersonal processes, like self-concept and identity formation, and interpersonal processes, like social learning and modeling. The Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development concentration emphasizes the bidirectional and interactive relationship between these two processes. Further, through the use of qualitative and quantitative approaches our research integrates work on individual change with work on socio-cultural influences over time.

    The Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development concentration’s curriculum has been designed to train students to research and analyze the complex relationships between individual, family, and community well-being and the broader socioeconomic, physical, cultural, and global environment. Through this framework students have the opportunity to study both intraindividual change and interindividual differences, strengths and assets in social development, such as healthy coping strategies across the lifespan, as well as challenges and concerns. Faculty members in the Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development concentration are conducting research on cultural identity factors informing minority populations’ health disparity outcomes (Stephens), the influence of health on the developmental trajectories of identity in emerging adulthood and later life (Frazier), and gender and power dynamics in intimate partner relationships (Eaton).

  • Doctoral Program

    The Department of Psychology at FIU offers a doctoral degree specialization in Developmental Science. We no longer offer a terminal masters degree in the Developmental Psychology program. All students accepted into our doctoral program will earn their masters degree as part of their degree requirements. However, students seeking to earn only a masters degree will not be accepted into the program

    The doctoral degree program in the Developmental Science at FIU is built upon series of core course requirements designed to facilitate students' thorough grounding in theory, methodology, and content in both basic and applied developmental psychology. A number of seminars reflecting the specialized foci of our program are also offered. The program offers students the opportunity to gain research experience in basic developmental science and in research with an applied focus.

    Our program has a central focus in training of scholars and professors of developmental science. Our research falls into two concentration areas: Early Development and Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood Development. The primary goal of our program is to equip students with the skills necessary to function as academic and/or research psychologist. Our strong lifespan developmental perspective emphasizing the systematic description and explanation of changes that organisms undergo as they develop is at the course of this comprehensive and integrative program that encompasses multiple approaches to the study of development. Our doctoral students benefit from the diversity of faculty’s areas of interest and expertise that converge to provide a well-rounded training program in developmental science. We also believe that it is essential that students become involved in research early in their graduate training by participating in faculty research studies and by leading individual research projects under the guidance of faculty members. They are also guided and encouraged to publish their individual research projects, present at professional conferences, and are provided opportunities for teaching as part of their doctoral training.

    Several faculty also focus on the use of research and application to promote positive development across the lifespan. Applied developmental scientists adopt the view that positive individual development and family functioning is a combined and interactive product of biology and the physical and social environments that continuously evolve and change over time. The applied developmental science orientation is committed to the use of descriptive and explanatory knowledge about changes within human systems that occur across the lifespan in developing, implementing and evaluating preventive, treatment, and/or enhancing interventions. Such interventions are intended to prevent negative developmental outcomes and/or restore and promote positive developmental outcomes.

    Prospective Graduate Students should visit our Prospective Students page for more information about the program.

  • Research Labs

    The Developmental Science Labs and Research Programs are at the core of our striving for outstanding teaching and cutting-edge research. They provide the means by which faculty can continue to accomplish the research that has contributed to the program's growing national and international recognition and to the program’s substantial contribution to knowledge development in both the basic and applied arenas. Additionally, they provide the means by which both undergraduate and graduate students in the Developmental Science Program obtain direct hands-on experience in both the basic and applied arenas of developmental science.

Research in Action 

Dr. Asia Eaton was interviewed about the psychological and social implications of the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida. She spoke on WPBT2's program Issues about the American Psychological Association's position on same-sex unions.

Dr. Eliza Nelson's research study found that children who show right-handed preference at a young age develop better language skills. She was interviewed about her work on the Wall Street Journal's television program Lunch Break.

Dr. Shannon Pruden's lab was profiled as part of the Worlds Ahead Campaign highlighting groundbreaking research at FIU. In this clip, she discusses the ways in which understanding children's spatial learning processes impacts their short-term and long-term development.