University of ArizonaNorton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Melissa Curran, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Director of Research, Take Charge America Institute
Family Studies and Human Development
650 N Park Ave
Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078
(520) 621-7140

I am from the suburbs of Chicago, IL.  I was an undergraduate student at Ball State University, a Master's student at Illinois State University, and a doctoral student at The University of Texas at Austin.  I also was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.

I have been a faculty member at the University of Arizona since 2006.

I live in Tucson with my husband. My husband and I dated (mostly long distance) for seven years and have been married for 14 years.  We also love pugs, and have adopted pugs from rescue groups in Texas (Fish) and Arizona (Sweet Pea).

When my husband and I go on vacation, it is often with my parents, who are a lot of fun and who love the beaches in FL (especially New Smyrna Beach).

Areas of expertise: 
  • Interpersonal and family relations
  • Relational sacrifices and relationship quality
  • Cohabitation
  • Transition to parenthood
  • Finances for couples and families
  • Marital representations and adult attachment
  • Experiences of cancer within the family system
Research Focus: 

Much of my research has been guided by attachment and interdependence theory, as well as from other relevant theories and lenses (e.g., symbolic interactionism, family systems, commitment, feminism, queer theory).

Initially, my focus was specific to attachment representations and marital quality during the transition to parenthood for new parents.  My focus expanded to include interpersonal topics including relational sacrifices and commitment, as well as the study of cohabitors.  I bridged these aforementioned areas of study with a focus on examining the transition to parenthood for pregnant, unmarried, cohabitors.

I continue to study relational sacrifices and relationship quality (e.g., commitment, satisfaction), as well as beliefs about relationships and marriage.  In much of my research I take a dyadic approach (e.g,, Actor-Partner Interdependence Models).  I am especially interested in understanding romantic relationships using daily diary data given the statistical advantages of daily diary data (e.g., fixed effects, within-person variability, and lagged effects of relationship qualty constructs such as satisfaction and commitment).

Finally, I collaborate with colleagues in two other areas: finances (i.e., in samples of emerging adults and during and after the transition to parenthood) and cancer (i.e., experiences of "co-survivors," and health experiences for women diagnosed with breast cancer as predicted from relationship characteristics).

Current Projects: 

I have several current projects including:

(1) How constructs such as relational sacrifices and attachment styles for individuals and partners impact relationship quality overall and especially on a daily basis.  Collaborations are with current and former graduate students Casey Totenhagen, Shannon Corkery, Val Young, Tricia Burke, Bü┼čra Akçabozan, Brandon McDaniel, Jose-Michael Gonzalez, Hilary Gamble, Jen Ervin, Ashley Cooper, Ashley Randall, and Erin Ruppel.

(2) Young adults' finances explained by influences such as romantic partners and parents.  Collaborations are with Dr. Joyce Serido (Univ. of Minnesota), Dr. Soyeon Shim (Univ. of Wisconsin), Sunyoung Ahn (UA), and Dr. Melissa Wilmarth (Univ. of Alabama).

(3) The transition to parenthood for couples (marrieds; pregnant cohabitors), attachment and marital representations, and/or family resilience.  Collaboration are with doctoral student Alexandria Pech (UA),
Dr. Melissa Barnett (UA), Dr. Nancy Hazen (UT-Austin), and Dr. Shannon Corkery (Penn State).

(4) The experience of cancer, in terms of how family members and friends of those who have cancer can be considered "co-survivors", as well as how aspects of romantic relationships (e.g., partner as primary confidant, affection) predict health for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  Collaborations are with Drs. Catherine Marshall and Karen Weihs at UA.

(5) Beliefs about relationships and marriage generally, as well as data specific to young adults, African Americans, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.  Collaborations are with Dr. Joel Muraco (Univ. of Wisconsin-Green Bay) and Dr. Stephen Russell (UT-Austin), as well as with Drs. Ebony Utley and Kelly Campbell (California State Univ. Long Beach and San Bernardino, respectively).

Subjects Taught: 
  • FSHD 487: Advanced Family Relations (or Interpesonal and Family Theories) (undergraduate)
  • FSHD 237: Close Relationships (undergraduate)
  • FSHD 492: Directed Research (undergraduate)
  • FSHD 491: Preceptorship (undergraduate)
  • FSHD 546: Foundations of Family and Interpersonal Theory (graduate)
  • FSHD 604/607: Topics in Interpersonal and Family Relations (graduate)
Select Publications: 

See CV (pdf) near the top of this page.

Tel: Main Office 520.621.1075 Norton School Student Services 520.621.1295
Mailing Address: 650 N. Park Ave Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078 (Map to McClelland Park)
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