Melissa Curran, Ph.D.

Professor, Family Studies & Human Development

Melissa Curran, Ph.D.

Professor, Family Studies & Human Development

I am not accepting any new doctoral students for Fall 2024

My last name sounds like Kur-in. 

I use the pronouns of she, her, and hers. (Learn more about pronouns here: 

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 7 years and have been married for 21 years.  We also love pugs, and have adopted pugs from rescue groups in Texas and Arizona. Our pug's name is Mrs. Beasley and we adopted her at age 8 from the pug rescue group in Arizona.

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

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

I study couple and family relationships specific to constructs such as relational sacrifices, the transition to parenthood, finances, attachment representations, and cancer. 

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 or APIMs).  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 quality constructs such as satisfaction and commitment).

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).

I am an Editorial Board member for Family Relations and Journal of Family Issues and was a previous Editorial Board member for the Journal of Family Psychology and the Journal of Marriage and Family

I was an Associate Editor for the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (JSPR; 2015 to 2019) and am now the Editor-in-Chief for JSPR (2020 to 2024). 

Current Projects

I have several current projects including:

(1) How constructs such as relational sacrifices, attachment styles, and emotion work for individuals and partners predict relationship quality both overall and on a daily diary basis. Collaborations are with current or former doctoral students including Xiaomin Li, Casey Totenhagen, Büşra Akçabozan Kayabol, Val Young, Brandon McDaniel, Shannon Corkery, Ashley Cooper, Ashley Randall, Tricia Burke, Erin Ruppel, and Hilary Gamble.

(2) The transition to parenthood for couples and families.  Collaboration are with Grace Aroz (UA) Mahek Shaw (UA), Alexa Chandler (UA), Dr. Xiaomin Li (Hong Kong Polytechnic Univ), Dr. Ashley LeBaron Black (Brigham Young Univ), Dr. Olena Kopystynska (Southern Utah Univ), Dr. Katie Paschall (Child Trends), and Dr. Melissa Barnett (UA).

(3) Young adults' finances explained by influences such as romantic partners and parents. Collaborations are with Dr. Xiaomin Li (Hong Kong Polytechnic Univ), Dr. Ashley LeBaron Black (Brigham Young Univ), Matthew Saxey (Brigham Young Univ), Dr. Joyce Serido (Univ of Minnesota), Dr. Soyeon Shim (Univ of Wisconsin), Dr. Sunyoung Ahn (Washington College), Dr. Casey Totenhagen (Univ of Alabama), and Dr. Melissa Wilmarth (Univ of Alabama).

(4) Beliefs about, and experiences in, romantic relationships for heterosexual and LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.  Collaborations are with Dr. Amanda Pollitt (Northern Arizona Univ), Dr. Stephen Russell (UT-Austin), Dr. Russ Toomey (UA), Dr. April Few-Demo (Virgina Tech), Dr. Aine Humble (Mount St. Vincent Univ), Dr. Casey Totenhagen (Univ of Alabama), and Dr. Ashley Randall (Arizona State Univ). 

(5) The transition to parenthood for couples and families as specific to attachment and marital representations.  Collaboration are with Dr. Nancy Hazen and Deborah Jacobvitz (UT-Austin).

(6) The experience of cancer, in terms of how family members and friends of those who have cancer are considered "co-survivors"; collaboration is with Dr. Catherine Marshall (UA). 

Subjects Taught
  • FSHD 487: Advanced Family Relations (or Interpesonal and Family Theories) (undergraduate) -- taught most often 
  • FSHD 237: Close Relationships (undergraduate)
  • FSHD 492: Directed Research (undergraduate)
  • FSHD 491: Preceptorship (undergraduate)
  • FSHD 546: Foundations of Family and Interpersonal Theory (graduate) -- taught most often
  • FSHD 602/604/607: Topics in Interpersonal and Family Relations (graduate)
Select Publications

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

Faculty Family Studies & Human Development
Melissa Curran

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