Melissa A. Barnett, Ph.D.

Professor, Human Development and Family Science
Norton Endowed Chair in Fathers, Parenting and Families
Director, Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth & Families
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McClelland Park Room 235D
650 N Park Ave
Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078


My research is motivated by my experiences as an elementary school teacher in an economically disadvantaged community. 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 marginalized 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 caregivers and young children from economically disadvantaged communities. In addition, I am interested in understanding how context shapes parenting, family relationships, and child development.



Areas of Expertise
  • Caregiver relationships and early childhood development
  • Poverty and child and parent wellbeing
  • Sociocultural influences on parenting and child development
  • Grandparent-grandchild relationships
Research Focus

Broadly, my research program considers how individual characteristics and larger cultural and socioeconomic contexts influence caregiver well-being, parenting and coparenting behaviors, early teacher-child relationships, and early childhood development. My focus is on identification of family strengths among disadvantaged families.

Specifically, my research focuses on understanding how caregivers, including parents, support network members, grandmothers and teachers,  influence young children directly through interactions with children, and indirectly through relationships with each other. Considering other family members or adults who play significant support and caregiving roles is especially relevant to child development in disadvantaged and minoritized communities.…



Current Projects

Typologies of Family Partnerships in Head Start: Links to Children’s School Readiness. This secondary data analysis project, which focuses on the ways families and teachers work together to impact the school readiness of children attending Head Start, was funded by the Administration for Children and Families.Collaborators include Katherine Paschall (Child Trends) and Ann Mastergeorge (Texas Tech University).

Independent and Interactive Links between Individual and Classroom-level Teacher-Child Relationship Quality and Children’s Academic School Readiness Skills. This secondary data analysis project, which focuses on teacher-child relationships and interactions in Head Start classrooms, was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Collaborators include Katherine Paschall (Child Trends) and Ann Mastergeorge (Texas Tech University).

Family Relationships and Child Development Among Low-Income, Unmarried Families. We are currently engaged in a series of projects related to a secondary data analysis grant focusing on the transition to parenthood for predominantly low-income, unmarried couples. The focus of these projects include fathers' parenting, understanding how family and contextual factors influence young children's development, and examination of how the quality of multiple family relationships (e.g., parenting, coparenting, parental romantic relationships) jointly impact adult and child wellbeing. Collaborators include Melissa Curran (Family Studies and Human Development, UA) and current and former graduate students.

Grandparenting In the 21st Century. The goal of this project is to understand the experiences and wellbeing of grandparents who are highly involved in raising their grandchildren. Collaborators are Loriena Yancura (University of Hawaii) and Danielle Nadorff (Mississippi State University).

Subjects Taught
  • Men, Fatherhood and Families (undergraduate)
  • Infant and Child Development (undergraduate)
  • Theories of Human Development (graduate)
  • Parent-Child Relationships (graduate)
  • Poverty & Families (graduate)
Select Publications

Please contact Dr. Melissa Barnett if you are unable to locate one of the publications listed below. Please see the CV for a complete list of publications. Also see Dr. Barnett's Google Scholar profile.

Barnett, M.A., Paschall, K.  Mastergeorge, A., Cutshaw, C. & Warren, S. (2020). Influences of parent engagement in home and preschool settings on kindergarten school readiness. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 53, 260-273.

Yancura, L., Barnett, M.A., Sano. Y. & Mammen, S. (2020). Context Matters: Critical grandparent contributions to rural low-income families. Child and Family Social Work, 25, 267-276.

Kopystynska, O., Barnett, M.A., & Curran, M. (2020). Constructive and destructive interparental conflict, parenting, and coparenting alliance. Journal of Family Psychology, 414-424.

Warren, S.M. & Barnett, M.A. (2019). Effortful control development in the face of harshness and unpredictability. Human Nature, 31, 68-87.

Mortensen, J.A. & Barnett, M.A. (2019). Intrusive Parenting, Teacher Sensitivity, and Negative Emotionality on the Development of Emotion Regulation in Early Head Start Toddlers. Infant Behavior and Development, 55, 10-21.