(M.S. to Ph.D., Ph.D. in Human Development)

Campus: Virginia Tech Blacksburg Campus

Instructions: Residential/On Campus 

The Adult Development and Aging focus of the Human Development graduate program is distinguished by world-renowned faculty. Faculty in ADA employ rigorous analytic techniques in examining research questions in topic areas such as cognitive functioning, family caregiving, elder abuse and neglect, relationships in later life, and chronic health conditions.

Funding through Assistantships 

Teaching Apprentice Program

Intensive Research Opportunities

Center for Gerontology and Adult Day Services 

Our Doctoral Program in Adult Development and Aging

The doctoral program in Adult Development and Aging (ADA) prepares professionals for participation in academic, research, governmental, and private organizations. Students complete coursework that includes developmental theories, developmental research methods, and development across the adult years at the individual and family levels of analysis, health, and advanced statistical analysis.

Why Study Adult Development and Aging Here?

Students have opportunities for professional development and are encouraged to become actively involved by presenting at national and international professional societies in human development, family science, and gerontology. Two research centers, the Center for Gerontology and Adult Day Services, offer many opportunities for research and application of research-based practices.  

What You'll Study

Students in the ADA area of the Human Development degree take courses taught by Adult Development and Aging faculty, other Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) faculty, faculty from sociology and psychology, and other faculty with expertise in research methods, statistical analysis, and qualitative methods. Students who complete the Ph.D. through the ADA area of the Human Development program acquire a breadth of research training, equipping them to conduct independent research using a range of methodological and analytical skills.

Student scholarship takes place not only in the classroom, but also through mentorship and research. Students may participate in wide-ranging faculty research projects using diverse methodologies and dealing with issues such as physical, mental, social, and financial health, familial and nonfamilial relationships, and community-based relationships.

Programs of study are individualized, permitting inclusion of significant coursework in specific subjects related to adult development and aging. Examples of courses that students may take include:

  • Adult Development & Aging: Individual Development
  • Adult Development & Aging: Interpersonal Issues
  • Social Policy & Aging
  • Theories of Human Development and Family Science
  • Sequence of statistics classes

Careers of Program Graduates

Numerous rewarding career opportunities are available for graduates the Human Development program. In academe, career options for graduates include teaching, research, and extension service. A wide range of career options also exists outside academe: Program development and evaluation, policy analysis and advocacy work, and administration and supervision in private and public human services agencies are just a few examples.

Professional Development & Research Support/Opportunities

The department provides students with a plethora of research opportunities, including experimental and observational research in laboratory settings, field research in the surrounding communities, and secondary data analysis. Students in the ADA content focus area may especially be interested in research opportunities available through the Center for Gerontology and the Adult Day Services center. Graduate students are also encouraged to lead research projects and publish in scholarly journals. The department provides support for professional development to participate in conferences through travel grants. Additional professional development and research support resources are provided by the Graduate School at Virginia Tech.

Our Faculty 

  • Family and Friend Relationships in Adulthood and Old Age
  • Effects of Mild Cognitive Impairment on Older Adults and Their Families
  • Spirituality and Resiliency
  • Mixed Methods Research Designs
  • Past President, Gerontological Society of America
  • Health and Social Support of Older Women
  • Caring for Older Persons with Memory Problems
  • Family & Friend Relationships in Later Life
  • Elder Abuse & Mistreatment
  • Managing Chronic Illness in Late Life (e.g. osteoporosis, pain, cancer)
  • Risks and Health Consequences of Functional Limitations Among Older Adults
  • Healthcare Outcomes Among Older Adults who do not Receive Sufficient Healthcare
  • How Resilience Influences Health Care Utilization Among Older Adults Exposed to a Disaster
  • Risks for Poor Outcomes Among Older Surgical Patients


  • Midlife and Aging (e.g. family caregiving, intergenerational relationships)
  • Physiological Markers of Stress, Health, and Wellbeing
  • Chronic Disease Management
  • Advanced Research Methods (e.g. longitudinal, time series, power, and missing data analyses)
  • Usefulness of mindfulness meditation
  • Elder and Vulnerable Adult Mistreatment
  • Public and Private Guardianship
  • End-of-Life Issues and Decision Making
  • Ethical Treatment and Human Rights Issues of Vulnerable Adults, Public Policy, and Public Affairs
  • Quality of Life
  • Cognition
  • Lifespan
  • aging
  • fMRI
  • tDCS

Adult Development and Aging Research Highlights

Research questions examined by the ADA faculty are grounded in compelling theory and employ rigorous analytic techniques. This research is published in top-tier and well-established scholarly journals including Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, The Gerontologist, Journal of Applied Gerontology, Dementia, Journal of Women and Aging, Ageing International,Journal of Marriage and Family, Family Relations, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Personality and Individual Differences. HDFS faculty across the focus areas of Adult Development and Aging, Child and Adolescent Development, Family Studies, and Marriage and Family Therapy often collaborate on research and service projects. Graduate students are often a part of research projects and subsequent publications through collaborations with HDFS faculty and faculty in other departments such as Psychology. 

Research Centers

Students interested in applying to the Adult Development and Aging content focus of the Human Development Program should contact the ADA Area Coordinator, Dr. PamelaTeaster, by email at pteaster@vt.edu.

Visit our office at 366 Wallace Hall, 295 West Campus Dr, Blacksburg, VA 24061 

Domestic Application

*Fall: Janurary 5

International Application

*Fall:  Janurary 5

*Deadline for admission with full consideration for funding:  January 5


Cindy Smith
Director of Graduate Studies
303 Wallace Hall
295 West Campus Dr.
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Pamela Teaster
Adult Development and Aging Area Coordinator
203 Grove Lane
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Human Development and Family Science
366 Wallace Hall (0416)
295 West Campus Dr
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: 540-231-4794
FAX: 540-231-7012