My research is motivated by my experiences as an elementary school teacher in an economically disadvantaged community in New Orleans. 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 high-risk, low-income communities. In particular, I was struck by the resilience 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 that ultimately improves the life chances of young children from economically disadvantaged communities. In addition, I am interested in understanding how culture shapes parenting, family relationships, and child development.
- Family relationships and early childhood development
- Poverty and social-emotional development
- Sociocultural influences on parenting
- Grandparent-grandchild relationships
Extended family relationships
Broadly, my developing research program considers how particular family relationships interact with each other and with the larger cultural and socioeconomic environment to influence parental well-being, parenting and coparenting behaviors, and early childhood social and emotional development.
Specifically, my research examines how significant adults, including fathers and grandmothers, influence early child development, directly, through interactions with the child, and indirectly, through relationships with the mother. Considering other family members or adults who play significant support and caregiving roles is especially relevant to child development in disadvantaged and ethnic minority communities. I am currently collecting data relating participation in extended family social support networks to parenting and parent and child well-being.
- Principal Investigator, Young Children in Families. Funded by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.
- Principal Investigator, Parenting Together. Funded by the University of Arizona Foundation (Faculty Seed Grant).
- Co-Investigator, Family Factors and Children's Growth & Development. Funded by the Norton Endowment for Fathers, Parenting and Families. Collaborator: Bruce Ellis.
- Infant and child development (undergraduate)
- Advanced research methods (undergraduate)
- Theories of human development (graduate)
Parent-child relationships (graduate)
Please contact Dr. Melissa Barnett if you are unable to locate one of the publications listed below.
Barnett, M.A. (2008). Economic disadvantage in complex family systems: Expansion of family stress models. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 11(3), 145-161.
Barnett, M.A., Deng, M., Mills-Koonce, W.R., Willoughby. M. & Cox, M. (2008). Interdependence of parenting of mothers and fathers of infants. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(3), 561-573.
Barnett, M.A. & Family Life Project Key Investigators (2008). Mother and grandmother parenting in low-income three-generation rural households. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 1241-1257.
Barnett, M.A., Gustafsson, H.C., Deng, M., Mills-Koonce, W.R., & Cox, M. (in press). Bidirectional associations among language development, social competence and parenting. Infant & Child Development.
Barnett, M.A., Mills-Koonce, W.R., Gustaffson, H.C., Cox, M. & Family Life Project Key Investigators (in press). Mother-grandmother conflict, negative parenting, and young children’s social development in multigenerational families. Family Relations.
Barnett, M.A., Scaramella, L.V., McGoron, L. & Callahan, K.C. (2012). Coparenting Cooperation and Child Adjustment in Low-Income Mother-Grandmother and Mother-Father Families. Family Science, 2, 159-170.
Barnett, M.A., Scaramella, L.V., Neppl, T.K., Ontai, L. & Conger, R.D. (2010). Grandmother involvement as a protective factor for early childhood social adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology,24, 635-645.
Barnett, M.A., Scaramella, L.V., Neppl, T.K., Ontai, L. & Conger, R. (2010). Intergenerational relationships, gender, and grandparent involvement. Family Relations, 59, 28-44.
Barnett, M.A., Shanahan, L.S., Deng, M. Haskett, M.H. & Cox, M.J. (2010). Independent and interactive contributions of parenting behaviors and beliefs in the prediction of early childhood behavior problems. Parenting: Science and Practice, 10, 1-17.
Barnett, M.A. & Taylor, L.C. (2009). Parental recollections of school experiences and current kindergarten transition practices. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30(2), 140-148.