Research in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn addresses the overarching theme of “Health and Well-Being Across the Lifespan.” Three broad content areas are reflected in faculty research agendas.
HDFS research targets biological, psychophysiological, and social processes occurring in particular periods of development and/or as these processes develop and change over time. For example, strategies of self-regulation may be examined for children, adolescents, or adults or researchers may seek to understand changes in these processes as individual’s transition from one developmental period to another, as with the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
HDFS research situates the developmental processes of interest in relevant relationships defined by the social contexts in which the developments occur. The developmental outcomes of children, for example, may be examined within the context of parent-child relationships in the home, teacher-child relationships at school, or peer relationships in school or neighborhood settings. Adult relationships may be addressed within the context of a new marriage, a long-term marriage, a step-family context, or any of a variety of role relationships
In addition to an emphasis on normative development across the life span, HDFS research emphasizes how development is contoured by social and societal factors such as socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. Overarching questions of interest include: What are the mechanisms for inequalities in development? How are these mechanisms changing over time? And what roles do cultural context, stigma, and social policy play in the stratification of opportunities for healthy development?
HDFS basic research contributes to the science of development and relationships. Faculty are investigating the daily stress cycle in preschoolers through the use of cortisol assays, examining the precursors to, and effects of, higher versus lower quality sleep in children using sophisticated instrumentation that children wear while sleeping, and observing the impact of peer rejection in school aged children using a laboratory protocol.
HDFS applied research takes the findings of current and previous research into account in order to develop curricula, training modules, and other interventions to target desired outcomes. These outcomes may involve increasing knowledge and changing attitudes about quality relationships among teens/adults or helping child care providers better understand the effects of the physical, social, and affective environment they create for children in their care.