Melissa Curran Research Lab

Melissa Curran Research Lab

Our Mission

We study couples and families most generally and are interested in topics such as attachment styles, relational sacrifices, and relationship quality (e.g., satisfaction, commitment).

Our projects include studies of individuals, couples, and families during the transition to parenthood; when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer and the experiences of these “co-survivors; and the predictors and outcomes of individuals’ various financial attitudes and decisions. 

Across our research projects, we study heterosexual and LGBTQ individuals, as well as individuals with varying SES statuses, using a variety of approaches (e.g., self-report, daily diary self-report, videotaped observations, semi-structured interviews). We are particularly interested in statistical analyses that allow us to take into account both members of the couple (e.g., APIM; similarity between couple or family reports) as well as change over time for the couple or family (e.g., variability in relationship quality over time). 

Connect with the researcher

Melissa Curan, Ph.D.

Professor, Human Development and Family Science

McClelland Park Room 235F
650 N Park Ave
Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078

Current Curran Lab Projects

Different Forms of Family Instability: Key Mechanisms Linking Family Strengthening Interventions, Family Functioning and Child Wellbeing.

(Administration for Children & Families, U.S. DHHS). PI: Barnett; Co-PI: Dr. Melissa Curran (HDFS)

Family instability is a significant risk factor for children’s cognitive, behavioral and emotional development, often because it undermines effective parenting practices and parental functioning. Economically disadvantaged families are particularly likely to experience family instability. The goal of this secondary data analysis is to examine how participation in the Building Strong Families (BSF) program, a federally funded relationship intervention program, caused families to experience reductions in three different forms of family instability (i.e., financial, family structure, romantic relationship quality), that in turn bolstered child development via increased father involvement and higher quality coparenting relationships. By examining multiple forms of family instability as intervention pathways, we will be able to inform future intervention work aimed at strengthening relationships and wellbeing among economically disadvantaged families across the transition to parenthood.

How Does Climate Change Adaptation-Related Stress and Coping Impact Family Functioning and Adaptation-Related Behaviors?

(College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona). PI: Barnett; Co-PI: Dr. Melissa Curran (HDFS), Dr. Sabrina Helm (RCSC) and Dr. Zelieann Craig (ACBS). 

We bring together expertise in several distinct areas (i.e., child development, family science, environmental sustainability, physiology) to apply a whole-family approach to address climate change adaptation-related stress and coping (CCARSC). Using an experimental design, we will expose parents of 5-8 year-old children to messages about climate change to understand how this exposure influences (a) concurrent stress responses in parents, (b) the quality of family interactions filmed immediately after, and (c) changes related to climate change adaptive behaviors one week later. The findings will provide pilot data for future studies considering individual and family coping in the face of climate change. This knowledge has significant implications for policy makers responsible for designing campaigns that seek to foster climate change adaptation while improving family wellbeing.

Work with graduate student author is denoted with †. Work with undergraduate student author is denoted with U


Few-Demo, A., Humble, A., Curran, M. A., & Lloyd, S. (accepted). Queer theory, intersectionality, and LGBT-parent families: Transformative critical pedagogy in family theory. Journal of Family Theory & Review.

†Muraco, J., Totenhagen, C., †Corkery, S., & Curran, M. A. (2014). Reflections on family science education: The importance of technology, experience, and diversity in the classroom. Family Science Review, 19, 40-49.

Curran, M. A., †McDaniel, B. T., †Pollitt, A. M., & Totenhagen, C. J. (accepted pending final revisions). Gender, emotion work, and relationship quality: A daily diary study. Sex Roles.

†Muraco, J., Totenhagen, C., †Corkery, S., & Curran, M. A. (2014). Reflections on family science education: The importance of technology, experience, and diversity in the classroom. Family Science Review, 19, 40-49.

Marshall, C. A., Curran, M. A., Koerner, S. S., Hickman, A. C., García, F. (2014). Un Abrazo Para La Familia: An evidenced-based rehabilitation approach in providing cancer education to low- SES Hispanic co-survivors.  Journal of Cancer Education. doi: 10.1007/s13187-013-0593-7

Tang, C., Curran, M. A., & Arroyo, A. (2014). Cohabitors’ reasons for living together, satisfaction with sacrifice, and relationship quality. Marriage and Family Review, 50, 598-620. doi:10.1080/01494929.2014.938289

Totenhagen, C. J., Curran, M. A., Serido, J., & Butler, E. A. (2013). Good days, bad days: Do sacrifices improve relationship quality? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30, 881-900. doi: 10.1177/0265407512472475  

Young, V., Curran, M. A., & Totenhagen, C. (2012). A daily diary study: Working to change the relationship and relational uncertainty in understanding positive relationship quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30, 132-148. doi: 10.1177/0265407512453826

Totenhagen, C., Serido, J., Curran, M. A., & Butler, E. (2012). Daily hassles and uplifts: A diary study on understanding relationship quality.  Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 719-728. doi: 10.1037/a0029628

†Ruppel, E. & Curran, M. A. (2012). Relational sacrifices in romantic relationships: Satisfaction and the moderating role of attachment. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 29, 508-529. doi: 10.1177/0265407511431190

 Work with graduate student author is denoted with †. Work with undergraduate student author is denoted with U.


+Gonzalez, J.M., +Gamble, H., & Curran, M. A. (2015, November). Approach-avoidance motivations of  sacrifice and relational quality. Paper submitted to the Annual Conference of the National Council on Family Relations, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

+Corkery, S.A. & Curran, M. A. (2015, November). Relational sacrifices and tripartite commitment dimensions. Paper submitted to the Annual Conference of the National Council on Family Relations, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.                 

+Akçabozan, N. B., +Chavez, C., +Pech, A., & Curran, M. A. (2015, November). Actor and partner attachment styles and relationship quality for cohabitors. Paper submitted to the meeting of the National Council on Family Relations, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Burke, T., Young, V., Totenhagen, C., & Curran, M. A. (2014, November). Relational sacrifices about  intimate behavior and relationship quality for expectant cohabitors. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, Chicago, IL.

†Loving, A., †McDaniel, B., Totenhagen, C., & Curran, M. A. (2014, November). Volatility in daily relationship quality: The role of attachment. Poster presented at the meeting of the National Council on Family Relations, Baltimore, MD.

Serido, J., †Ahn. S. Y., UGarner, E., & Curran, M. A. (2013, November). Young adults’ finances: Influences from parents and romantic partners. Poster presented at the meeting of the National Council on Family Relations, San Antonio, TX.


Dr. Casey Totenhagen

Dr. Shannon Corkery

Dr. Melissa Barnett


Graduate Students

Busra Akcabozan

Jose-Michael Gonzalez

Hilary Gamble

Brandon McDaniel