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Community and Applied Developmental Psychology

CPR 2022
  • What is Community Psychology?

    Community psychology goes beyond an individual focus and engages communities to envision and support individual, relational, and collective wellness. This requires an examination and understanding of a given community’s social, cultural, economic, political, environmental, and historical context. Community psychologists are committed to value-based praxis that involves reflection, research, and action to advance social justice. 


    You can learn more about Community Psychology through the Society for Community Research and Action (APA Division 27) 

  • What is Applied Developmental Psychology?

    Applied developmental psychology expands the theories and methodologies of developmental science by applying knowledge of human development and evidence-based practices to address real-world problems in real-world settings  Developmental processes are conceptualized as lifelong and as occurring in complex and interrelated contexts (e.g., families, neighborhoods, communities, and physical settings). 

    Applied development is represented across numerous professional organizations including: The Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD), The American Education Research Association (AERA); The Society for Prevention Research (SPR); and The Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA)

Program Overview Heading link

Through research opportunities, coursework, community engagement experiences, and campus resources, the UIC CADP program seeks to develop the next generation of leading scholars in Community and Applied Developmental Psychology.

  • Designed as a five-year Ph.D. program for full-time students
  • M.A. degree earned while completing required coursework
  • Yearlong community-based action research training practicum
  • Preliminary exam and dissertation required
  • Teaching and research assistantships with tuition waivers available

Click here to view the handbook for the Community and Applied Developmental Psychology at UIC, including an explanation of the thesis, preliminary exam, dissertation requirements, and a sample course sequence.

Community & Applied Developmental Psychology Program Description Heading link

The primary mission of UIC’s doctoral concentration in Community and Applied Developmental Psychology (CADP) is to train students to conduct innovative research on critical social issues in a pluralistic society. Doctoral students actively engage in applied research with core and affiliated faculty, typically in urban schools, neighborhoods, and human service settings. Coursework and practicum experiences focus on engaging communities to develop, conduct and disseminate applied research across the lifespan through a critical lens and with a strong commitment to social justice.

UIC’s community and applied developmental psychology doctoral program prepares students for various action-research careers in academic settings, government agencies, community-based organizations, policy institutes, and non-academic research settings. The doctoral program provides training in a wide array of values, theories, and methods to strengthen students’ abilities to think creatively and critically about pressing social issues across the lifespan (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood).

Students are trained to uphold the values of community psychology (e.g., a multi-level strengths-based perspective and respect for human diversity, collaboration, and social justice) while considering contextual influences on human development and learning across the lifespan to address real-world challenges and promoting social justice. Three guiding principles shape this program to facilitate students’ clear and critical thinking. Persons receiving a Ph.D. will gain expertise in these themes:

Understanding Contextual Influences on Human Development

CADP Students examine and engage:

  • The importance of ecological analysis for understanding individual and setting-level behavior and development.
  • The role of historical, social, developmental, and cultural contexts on the expression of individual and setting-level behavior and development.
  • The ways in which interlocking systems of oppression operate to award and deny power, social value, and access to resources across individuals and settings.

Core and affiliate faculty conduct research in various contexts and systems, including schools, families, organizations, and neighborhoods. Topics include psychosocial and contextual factors that might mitigate the deleterious effects of discrimination stress on health and health behavior; the influence of neighborhood characteristics (such as poverty, crime, racial and ethnic composition, and organizational resources) on child and adult health and well-being; school and family contexts that impact positive child and adult learning and development; effectiveness of interventions aimed at promoting children’s social and emotional competence, well-being, and life success; state and federal policy impacts on education reform, intervention adoption, and implementation; and community and system responses to violence

Courses throughout the program contribute to students’ knowledge and skills in this learning objective. Students can also choose among numerous electives within and beyond the psychology department to develop a training curriculum that best meets their needs. For example, students often select electives in the departments or schools of Educational Psychology, Human Development and Disability Studies, Sociology, Criminal Justice, Gender & Women’s Studies, and Public Health.

Research Methods and Methodologies Heading link

CADP Students examine and engage:

  • The importance of using multiple methods and methodologies to best address research questions of interest.
  • The role of collaborative approaches with community members, clients, coalitions, organizations, and social movements in community engagement, research, and action.
  • The ways a researcher’s epistemological and ontological beliefs and world views can influence the questions they ask and the methods they employ.


Methodological training occurs through a mix of coursework and apprenticeship hands-on research opportunities. All CADP students take a core research methods course in their first year in addition to required department-level quantitative analysis courses. Additional elective courses within and outside the department introduce students to specific methodologies relevant to their unique research needs, such as qualitative and mixed methodologies, program evaluation, and participatory action research.

Applying Research to Effect Change Heading link

CADP students examine and engage in:

  • Collaborative strategies for developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating setting-based interventions and initiatives.
  • The process of creating social change through value-driven setting-based strategies.
  • Critical analysis of theory and methods with a social justice approach.

In addition to a yearlong action research training practicum, required and elective courses provide a foundation for conducting reflexive and reflective research, ecological inquiry, and action research in community settings. Over the course of the program, students are supported in developing their own program of research relevant to their interests, goals, and professional needs. Research apprenticeships and elective courses taught by core and affiliate faculty help students tailor their training toward their focal topics. Faculty research groups and the program’s weekly brown bag seminar allow students to pursue and share research interests with colleagues, community members, and visiting leaders in the field. Learn about faculty research agendas by visiting their profiles here.