My research is motivated by my experiences as an elementary school teacher in an economically disadvantaged community in New Orleans. My students and their families inspired me to conduct research focused on informing the development of interventions and policies to support positive child development in high-risk, low-income communities. In particular, I was struck by the resilient outcomes of some students who thrived despite the odds, and by the extensive involvement of multiple family members in the lives of young children. My goal is to understand how to leverage these strengths to conduct research to inform policy and program development that ultimately improves the life chances of young children from economically disadvantaged communities. In addition, I am interested in understanding how culture shapes parenting, family relationships, and child development.
I will be accepting Ph.D. applicants for entry in Fall 2014.
- Family relationships and early childhood development
- Poverty and social-emotional development
- Sociocultural influences on parenting
- Grandparent-grandchild relationships
- Extended family relationships
Broadly, my research program considers how family relationships are shaped by individual characteristics and larger cultural and socioeconomic contexts to influence parental well-being, parenting and coparenting behaviors, and early childhood social and emotional development. My focus is on identification of family strengths among disadvantaged families.
Specifically, my research examines how significant adults, including fathers and grandmothers, influence early childhood development, directly, through interactions with the child, and indirectly, through relationships with the mother. Considering other family members or adults who play significant support and caregiving roles is especially relevant to child development in disadvantaged and ethnic minority communities.
- Principal Investigator, Young Children in Families. Funded by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.
- Principal Investigator, Parenting Together. Funded by the University of Arizona Foundation (Faculty Seed Grant).
- Co-Investigator, Family Factors and Children's Growth & Development. Funded by the Norton Endowment for Fathers, Parenting and Families. Collaborator: Bruce Ellis.
- Infant and Child Development (undergraduate)
- Problems in Child and Adolescent Development (undergraduate)
- Advanced Research Methods (undergraduate)
- Theories of Human Development (graduate)
- Parent-Child Relationships (graduate)
Please contact Dr. Melissa Barnett if you are unable to locate one of the publications listed below.
Barnett, M.A., Mortensen, J., Tilley, E. & Gonzalez, H. (2013). Global and parenting specific social support as protective factors for the wellbeing of Mexican American mothers of toddlers. Family Science, 4, 89-109.
Barnett, M.A. & Scaramella, L.V. (2013). Parenting and child sex differences in behavior problems among African American preschoolers: A within-family sibling design. Journal of Family Psychology, 27, 773-783.
Barnett, M.A., Gustafsson, H.C., Deng, M., Mills-Koonce, W.R., & Cox, M. (2012). Bidirectional associations among language development, social competence and parenting. Infant & Child Development, 21, 374-393.
Barnett, M.A., Mills-Koonce, W.R., Gustaffson, H.C., Cox, M. & Family Life Project Key Investigators (2012). Mother-grandmother conflict, negative parenting, and young children’s social development in multigenerational families. Family Relations, 61, 864-877.
Barnett, M.A., Scaramella, L.V., McGoron, L. & Callahan, K.C. (2012). Coparenting Cooperation and Child Adjustment in Low-Income Mother-Grandmother and Mother-Father Families. Family Science, 2, 159-170.
Barnett, M.A., Scaramella, L.V., Neppl, T.K., Ontai, L. & Conger, R.D. (2010). Grandmother involvement as a protective factor for early childhood social adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology,24, 635-645.
Barnett, M.A., Scaramella, L.V., Neppl, T.K., Ontai, L. & Conger, R. (2010). Intergenerational relationships, gender, and grandparent involvement. Family Relations, 59, 28-44.
Barnett, M.A., Shanahan, L.S., Deng, M. Haskett, M.H. & Cox, M.J. (2010). Independent and interactive contributions of parenting behaviors and beliefs in the prediction of early childhood behavior problems. Parenting: Science and Practice, 10, 1-17.
Barnett, M.A. (2008). Economic disadvantage in complex family systems: Expansion of family stress models. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 11, 145-161.