Child and Family Psychology

child playing imaginary game in box

The postgraduate Child and Family Psychology programme is unique within New Zealand and taught by academic and clinical staff from the University of Canterbury’s School of Health Sciences with other teaching staff as appropriate.

Our Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology was designed to meet market demand for registered psychologists specifically trained to work with children, adolescents and families.

Our programme places a strong emphasis on consideration of strengths and resiliencies as well as challenges and difficulties, all within the context of the child's environment. We focus on children’s mental health and emotional well-being as well as their learning. We also aim to reflect the social and political context of children in Aotearoa (New Zealand) with an appropriate bicultural emphasis. We also include areas such as parenting, adult mental health and relationships in recognition that children and adolescents do not exist in isolation but are part of family and wider community systems.

The content of the programme aims to be:

  • Intellectually rigorous
  • Based on recent international and national theory, research and trends
  • Evidence- based
  • Reflective of children’s ecology and contexts
  • Focused on the strengths, resiliencies and protective mechanisms of children and families
  • Informed by the social and political context of children in Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Graduates will have a grounding in the theory and skills required for work with children, and their families in all the contexts within which they present for help and support. These contexts include health, education, welfare, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

The programme offers two qualifications.

Master's study

This programme does not lead to registration as a psychologist.

The Masters degree (Master of Arts or Master of Science in Child and Family Psychology or an approved Master of Education) consists of a two-year programme, open to graduates with an appropriate background in Psychology. It provides an equivalent qualification to an MA or MSc in Psychology for students who have a special academic, vocational or research interest in Child and Family Psychology. It is also possible for students to complete the coursework and a relevant thesis within a Master of Education (MEd) degree. (For students wishing to complete only 1 year of study, a 120-point Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Child and Family Psychology is available from Part I of the Master's schedule).

Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology

The professional training programme is the limited-entry PGDipChFamPsyc. This is the pathway to professional registration as a psychologist with the New Zealand Psychologists’ Board under the Health Practitioner's Competence Assurance Act (2003). Students ordinarily enrol in the first year of the Master's degree then apply for selection to this limited-entry programme in October of that year. After completing their Master's degree and the first year of the PGDipChFamPsyc, students undertake a 1500-hour internship year alongside further academic papers.

Students entering the Master's programme typically have completed a three-year undergraduate degree with a major in Psychology, which requires achieving a pass in PSYC 206 Research Design and Statistics or an equivalent research methods course. In addition, all prospective students will normally be expected to have at least a B average in their 300-level undergraduate courses. 

Apart from the Research Methods requirement, we encourage a broad base in your undergraduate study of Psychology or Psychology and Education. As well as the obvious papers in child development, family psychology, abnormal psychology, counselling and applied behaviour analysis, papers considering inclusive practice and education provide an excellent and relevant preparation.

Students with a major in Education or Teaching and a minor in Psychology (including PSYC 206 or equivalent) may complete the Master's programme as a MEd and are eligible to apply for entry to the PGDipChFamPsyc once they have completed the six 400-level courses.

Check the specific requirements  and programme structure for each qualification in the degree regulations:

Approved Master of Education study

The approved MEd has a specific course of study that is not covered by other MEd degrees. 

Part one is made up of:

  • EDEM 661 Disorders of Childhood (.25 EFTS)
  • EDEM 662 Child Development: Research Contexts and Applications (.25 EFTS)
  • EDEM 663 Introduction to Interventions (.25 EFTS)
  • EDEM 664 Counselling and Psychology: Theory and Skills (.25 EFTS)
  • HLTH 472 Introduction to Psychometric Theory and Administration (.125 EFTS) 
  • An approved research methods course (.125 EFTS) - this can be one of HLTH 462, EDEM 694, EDEM 697, PSYC 460 or their equivalents.

Part two consists of a thesis, EDEM 691, in a topic approved by the Child and Family Psychology Programme Coordinator.

New students apply to enrol in the six foundation year courses within either an MA or MSc in Child and Family Psychology (or as part of an approved course of study within an MEd degree). On rare occasions, students assessed to have completed equivalent coursework or a relevant thesis may gain approval to complete fewer courses within either a Postgraduate Diploma of Science or a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences or Education.

  • For the MA and MSc, apply online.
  • For the MEd please contact either Sarah Whitcombe-Dobbs or Karyn France.
  • For the limited entry Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology email Lorraine McKeown. Applications open in August. Successful applicants will be required to consent to a check of their Police record, either in New Zealand and/or their country of origin. You must also include certified copies of all previous tertiary academic transcripts with this application. Current UC transcripts are not required to be included.
  • Thesis enrolment - to enrol in part two of any Master's degree you must first gain topic approval and then fill out the relevant college's thesis application forms. You can also consult our Thesis guide Child and Family Psychology.

For all enquiries please contact:

Sarah Whitcombe-Dobbs

Lecturer in Child & Family Psychology
Waimairi 109
Internal Phone: 95528

Karyn France

Associate Professor
Waimairi 208
Internal Phone: 93990