University of ArizonaNorton School of Family and Consumer Sciences


FSHD Core Research Areas

Research in Family Studies and Human Development is conducted in 5 core areas. These targeted areas constitute our core domains for development of focused excellence in basic and applied research on families and human development.

  1. Adolescent Development and Transition to Adulthood

  2. Family Relationships and Health/Well-being

  3. Social and Emotional Development In Early Childhood

  4. Romantic and Sexual Relationships

  5. Applied Research


1. Adolescent Development and Transition to Adulthood

Research in this area examines the influence of socio-cultural contexts, participation in youth programs, and family relationships on adolescent health and development.


Bruce Ellis Bruce Ellis: Dr. Ellis conducts longitudinal studies examing the effects of paternal investment and quality of family relationships on timing of puberty, adolescent sexual behavior, and risk of teenage pregnancy. He is particularly interested in applications of life history theory to adolescent development.
Andrea Romero, Ph.D Andrea Romero: Dr. Romero studies the effect of bicultural contexts on the stress and coping of adolescents and the implications for mental well-being. She has particularly focused on how ethnic identity development is a protective factor against the negative effect of discrimination on mental health of ethnic minority adolescents.  She also investigates the impact of family and neighborhood contexts on the health and well-being of adolescents. Her current research focuses on the development of resilience among ethnic minority adolescents as it relates to preventing risky health behavior. She is currently conducting and evaluating substance use and HIV prevention programs among adolescents.

2. Family Relationships and Health/Well-being

Research in this area focuses on the emotional well-being and physical health of family members across the lifecycle. Emphasis is on relationship processes and family context as important factors contributing to overall health and well-being.


Melissa A. Barnett Melissa A. Barnett: Dr. Barnett studies links between family relationships and the mental health and well-being of multiple family members, including young children, parents and grandparents.  Her research considers parent-child, parent-parent and grandparent-child relationships.
Emily Butler Emily Butler: Dr. Butler's research focuses on emotional processes and self-regulation in the context of close relationships. Using a multi-method approach, she investigates the physiological, psychological, and social aspects of emotional interactions in couples and families. A current focus of her research is to study emotions, self-regulation, and eating in couples and families coping with obesity.
Melissa Curran Melissa Curran: Dr. Curran studies how early representations within the family of origin impact current and later marital, child, and familial outcomes. She uses multiple methods (interview, observation, self-report) and multiple informants (husband, wife, child) in her research.
Andrea Romero Andrea Romero: Dr. Romero studies the cultural value of familism among adolescents and parents and also among elders and caregivers.  She has investigated the impact of familism and parental monitoring on adolescent risk behaviors over time. She is currently co-investigator on a randomized clinical trial of Mexican American elders and their caregivers.

3. Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood

Research in this area focuses on psychobiologic and socio-emotional development in young children and examines the roles of early familial and extra-familial experiences and socio-cultural influences in that development.


Melissa A. Barnett Melissa A. Barnett: Dr. Barnett’s research considers how family processes (e.g., parenting and coparenting) interact with child characteristics (e.g., temperament), sociocultural factors (e.g.,  ethnicity), and economic disadvantage to influence the development of positive and negative dimensions of social and emotional adjustment.  Her research focuses on the toddler and preschool periods, including the implications of development during these periods for the acquisition of social and emotional school readiness skills.
Melissa Curran Melissa Curran: Dr. Curran is interested in how early parental and triadic experiences predict children ' s current and later socioemotional functioning (e.g., ADHD, anxiety, depression). 
Bruce Ellis Bruce Ellis: Dr. Ellis studies the role of early experience in the development of psychobiologic reactivity to stress in young children. His work conceptualizes psychobiologic reactivity as a marker of suseptibility to environmental influence that often moderates the influence of early experience on subsequent developmental outcomes.
Angela Taylor Angela Taylor: Dr. Taylor's research examines the influence of children's interpersonal relationships (parents, teachers, peers) on socio-emotional development and school adjustment, including the role of these relationships as risk and protective factors. She has particular interest in the socio-cultural determinants of early school adjustment in low-income and ethnic minority children.

4. Romantic and Sexual Relationships

This research area addresses the dynamics of romantic and sexual relationships and assumes that these relationships are best understood from multiple perspectives, i.e., individual development, relational development, gender, and others. Faculty research has focused on relationships from adolescence to adulthood, the interplay of romantic and sexual aspects of relationships, gender dynamics, relationship dysfunctions, and the role of personality in relationships.


Emily Butler Emily Butler: Dr. Butler studies the roles of emotion regulation and social support in the relationships of romantic and married couples. This research includes both laboratory based investigations of couples' supportive interactions and arguments, during which self-report, physiological, and behavioral measures are collected, and daily diary methods in which partners report on their everyday intimate interactions. A recent focus of Dr. Butler's research is to investigate emotion regulation and social support in couples coping with obesity.
Melissa Curran Melissa Curran: Dr. Curran studies how early representations within the family of origin impact current and later marital quality and health. Her proposed research includes studying couples in which the wife has breast cancer. She wants to explore the process by which representations of the parents ' marriage predict how supportive spouses are to one another during discussion tasks, and how such support predicts health and well-being in both partners over time. 

5. Applied Research

This research area bridges research and theory development with practice. It is designed to solve practical problems and offer research-based solutions to critical questions. A primary goal of the applied researcher is to improve the human condition.


Andrea Romero Andrea Romero: Dr. Romero conducts participatory action research in collaboration with many local community members and agencies around the topics of preventing underage drinking and preventing HIV/AIDS.  She works closely with the South Tucson Prevention Coalition on related projects. She is currently conducting substance use and HIV prevention programs with adolescents.  Her research links theory and research on ethnic identity development and discrimination with local community projects.


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