in person

Positive Developmental Psychology

PhD in Psychology

Doctoral research in Positive Developmental Psychology equips you with contemporary psychology expertise to design, implement, and evaluate social interventions aimed at fostering positive human development throughout the lifespan.

Positive psychology is the scientific study of the factors that contribute to human flourishing and well-being. You’ll research the positive developmental trajectories and processes that contribute to positive outcomes at both the individual and sociocultural levels, integrating that scholarship with research from developmental science, positive psychology, statistics, and methodology. The positive psychology program at CGU was founded by the grandfather of Positive Psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. At CGU, you will continue the good work began by late Professor Csikszentmihalyi with the only positive psych doctorate in the country. Led by faculty-scholars who are experts in the field, you’ll apply social science concepts and methods to important social issues through supervised fieldwork or teaching, preparing you to succeed in an array of organizations and institutions and to make a lasting impact on the lives within them.

Program Highlights

Our programming in Positive Developmental Psychology is built upon the following core principles:

  • The importance of understanding positive developmental processes and primary prevention, promotion, and optimization, rather than remediation.
  • The need to take into account inter-individual differences and intra-individual changes across the lifespan.
  • The centrality of context, especially institutions, settings, and programs that promote positive experiences and characteristics.
  • An appreciation of the bidirectional relationship between knowledge generation and knowledge application.
  • Promotion of applied research and evaluation so that our work has direct implications for the decisions of individuals, families, schools, practitioners, and policymakers.

Program At-a-glance

  • 72 units

    required units

  • PhD in Psychology

    degree awarded

  • In Person


  • Spring, Fall

    program start

  • 5-7 years | full time*

    estimated completion time

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Regina Burch

Assistant Director of Admissions


Where You Can Find Our Alumni


  • Portrait of JEanne Nakamura

    Jeanne Nakamura

    Associate Professor
    Director, Quality of Life Research Center

    Research Interests

    Engagement, Mentoring, Positive Aging

  • Portrait of Tiffany Berry

    Tiffany Berry

    Dean, School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation
    Full Research Professor

    Research Interests

    Educational Program Evaluation, K–12 Educational Curricula, Comprehensive School Reform

  • Kendall Bronk

    Kendall Cotton Bronk

    Professor of Psychology

    Research Interests

    Purpose in Life, Adolescent Moral Development, Positive Youth Development, Qualitative Methods

  • Saeideh (Saida) Heshmati

    Saeideh (Saida) Heshmati

    Assistant Professor of Psychology

    Research Interests

    Human Flourishing Across the Lifespan, Positive Relationships & Love, Longitudinal Analysis

Extended Faculty

  • Reed Larson

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Research Interests

    Developmental experiences in youth programs

  • Stacey N. Doan

    Claremont McKenna College

    Research Interests

    Emotional, sociocultural and developmental influences on physical and psychological health; mind-body interaction; the effect of emotions and stress; social relationships

  • Rachel Fenning

    Claremont McKenna College/Claremont Autism Center

    Research Interests

    Child and family contributions to social emotional development, biobehavioral regulation, and clinical outcomes in children with autism spectrum disorder and related intellectual and developmental disabilities


Core Courses (20 units)
Foundations of Positive Psychology (4 units)
Theories & Concepts in Lifespan Developmental Psychology (4 units)
Applied Developmental Psychology (4 units)
Plus two of the following:
Child Development: Traditional & Positive Perspectives (4 units)
Adolescent Development: Traditional & Positive Perspectives (4 units)
Adult Development: Traditional & Positive Perspectives (4 units)

Related Elective Courses (24 units)
Students are required to take an additional 24 units of Positive Developmental Psychology or related coursework, following an approved plan of study.

Recommended elective courses include:
Advanced Topics in Positive Psychology (4 units)
Emotions (4 units)
Evaluating Developmental Interventions (4 units)
Flow: The Positive Psychology Experience (2 units)
Good Work (4 units)
Positive Contexts (4 units)
Positive and Inclusive Education (4 units)
Positive Relationships across the Lifespan (4 units)
Purpose at Work and in Life (4 units)
Science of Human Flourishing (4 units)

Required Methods and Statistics Courses (20 units)
Research Methods (4 units)
Directed Research Seminar (two 2-unit courses)
Intermediate Statistics (2 units)
Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) (2 units)
Applied Multiple Regression (2 units)
Categorical Data Analysis (2 units)
PSYCH 315 Sequence: Advanced Methodology (4 units)

Field Experience/Teaching Experience (4 units)
Supervised Teaching Seminar or Field Placement

Transdisciplinary Course
All students are required to enroll in a transdisciplinary core course from the “TNDY” course sequence during their first three semesters at Claremont Graduate University.

In addition to 72 units of coursework, all students must complete a portfolio that represents a cohesive set of experiences balancing training in their area of specialization.

PhD Completion

  • PhD qualifying exam
  • Dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation and oral defense

In the Field Opportunities
Under the supervision of professionals with expertise in your particular areas of interest, you can participate in fieldwork, research, and paid internships at a range of organizations, including:

  • Claremont Evaluation Center
  • Southern California Edison Company
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Orange County Rapid Transit District
  • Riverside County Department of Mental Health
  • Institute for Research on Social Issues

Application Guidelines

Requirements Summary

Item Description
Application Fee $80
Official Transcripts Yes
Letters of Recommendation 2
Statement of Purpose Yes
Resume Yes
Standardized Test Scores Optional
Other Requirements English proficiency exam

Please see the application checklist for more details.

Spring 2024
Priority Deadline – November 1, 2023
Final Deadline (International) – November 15, 2023
Final Deadline (Domestic) – December 1, 2023
Classes begin – January 16, 2024

Fall 2024
Priority Deadline – February 1, 2024
Final Deadline (International) – July 5, 2024
Final Deadline (Domestic) – August 1, 2024
Classes begin – August 26, 2024

Application Checklist

Cost & Aid

Program 72 units
Tuition per unit* $2,020

*Based on 2023-2024 tuition rates.


$245 Student Fee
$150 Technology Fee
International Student Services Fee*: $661 fall semester, $776 spring semester
**Applies to all international students (F-1 visa only) who are registered in coursework, doctoral study, or continuous registration. The fee is assessed each fall and spring semester for annual ISO accident and sickness plans and administrative fees. Subject to change.

For estimates of room & board, books, etc., please download CGU’s Cost of Attendance 2022-2023 .

Review General Costs

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