The Society for the Study of Human Development (SSHD) is a professional society formed by a group of scholars from multiple disciples (e.g., medicine, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, and history). The central focus of SSHD is to provide an organization that moves beyond age-segmented scholarly organizations to take an integrative, interdisciplinary approach to ages/stages across the life span, generational and ecological contexts of human development, and research and applications to human development policies and programs. SSHD currently includes over 200 members.

On May 18, 1998, leading scholars met at the Murray Research Center at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to discuss the merits and potential of creating a new society for research on human development. At the end of this meeting, a conference committee was appointed and charged with the task of developing a conference that would highlight the rationale for the new society. The committee was asked to invite presenters who could provide stimulating addresses in keeping with the conference goals, which were:

  • to support work with a developmental focus that spreads out over a long timeline;
  • to encourage interdisciplinary work, work that considers culture and context, and work that focuses on relationships;
  • to bring together different methodological approaches (the use of archival data, the use of longitudinal data, the combination of qualitative and quantitative data);
  • to generate knowledge as well as benefiting from it in terms of developing applications for specified issues; and
  • to help train the next generation of scholars in these methods.

Participants agreed that SSHD would not be seen as competing with the age-oriented societies we now have, such as the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) and Society for Research in Adolescence (SRA).

Instead, we envision a smaller group that would supplement and provide synergistic connections with others. It might evolve as the American arm of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development (ISSBD), which takes a multidisciplinary approach to human development across all age groups and which provides a forum for the discussion of issues facing researchers interested in such scholarship.

In the Fall of 1999, SSHD held its first meeting, Lives in Context, which was highly successful. In April 2000, a Steering Committee was formed consisting of leading international and national scholars.

Paul B. Baltes.from first SSHD meeting Rich Lerner.First SSHD meeting Rich Lerner, Paul Baltes, and John Nesselroade.First SSHD meeting

Snapshots from the first SSHD meeting at Radcliffe. Left: Paul Baltes; Middle: Richard Lerner; Right: Richard Lerner, Paul Baltes, and John Nesselroade.

SSHD drafted bylaws and organized the Second Biennial Meeting which was held at the University of Michigan, October 19-21, 2001.

The Third Biennial Meeting was held at the Murray Research Center on November 1-2, 2003, and was chaired by Professor Gisela Labouvie-Vief.

The Fourth Biennial Meeting was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds on October 28-30, 2005. Professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne was the Program Chair.

The Fifth Biennial Meeting was held at The Pennsylvania State University on October 19-20, 2007.  Professor Toni Antonucci was the Program Chair.

The Sixth Biennial Meeting was held at University of Michigan, October 18-20, 2009. Professor Lawrence Schiamberg was the Program Chair.

The Seventh Biennial Meeting was held at Brown University, October 28-30, 2011.

The Eighth Biennial Meeting was held at the Westin, Fort Lauderdale Beach, FL, November 3-6, 2013. Professor Willis Overton was the Program Chair.

The Ninth Biennial Meeting was held at the Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown/Convention Center Hotel in Austin, Texas, October 16-18, 2015. Professor Kristine Ajrouch was the Program Chair.

The Tenth Biennial Meeting was held at the Omni Providence Hotel, Providence, RI, October 6-8, 2017. Professor Joseph Fitzgerald was the Program Chair.

The Eleventh Biennial Meeting was held at the Benson Hotel, Portland, OR, October 11-13, 2019. Professors Jennifer Urban and Yoko Yamamoto were the Program Co-Chairs.

The Twelfth Biennial Meeting was held in a virtual format across four sessions during 2021-2022. Professor Lynn Liben organized the meeting (Program Details).