Faculty photo

Melissa Sturge-Apple

  • Professor of Psychology

PhD in Developmental Psychology, Minor in Quantitative Psychology, University of Notre Dame, 2002

471 Meliora Hall
(585) 275-8711

Office Hours: By appointment


Research Overview

Professor Sturge-Apple will be accepting applications for graduate students for the 2024-2025 academic year.

My research broadly focuses on family processes, parental functioning, and child development. My work is guided by theoretical conceptualizations derived from developmental psychopathology, self-regulation frameworks, evolutionary developmental theories, and parenting process models. My research integrates multiple domains including psychological processes (e.g., emotional, behavioral), neurobiological functioning (e.g., physiological stress response systems, cognitive processes), and ecological (e.g., socioeconomic stress) levels. I am also very interested in how we study families and children with an eye towards novel and innovative assessments (e.g., implicit assessments, observational paradigms) and analysis (e.g., latent profiles, dynamic modeling) of family and child functioning. My interests lie in exploring three separate but interconnected areas of research:

  1. My work seeks to identify underlying mechanisms of the interrelations between interparental and parenting domains and child adjustment. My work to date has utilized effective spillover conceptualizations and emotional security as a guide to identifying mechanisms that may account for links between family relationships and children's adjustment. I have increasingly complemented this research with a focus on how evolutionary frameworks may provide further guidance in understanding how children adapt to family adversity.
  2. I am very interested in identifying the factors that predict parenting across the range from normative and promotive caregiving behaviors to parental neglect and maltreatment. In particular, emerging conceptual frameworks of parental self-regulation stress the importance of these processes in supporting parents with respect to behavioral regulation and maintenance of their intended socialization goals. Specifically, my work explores three regulatory domains including physiological, neurocognitive, and social cognitive levels of analysis in the determinants of parenting.
  3. Although my work has sought to establish the presence of direct effects, it is clear that not all individuals are impacted similarly by family processes. As such, my work also focuses on more precisely identifying sources of heterogeneity in family process models through determining the factors which may moderate (e.g., temperament, neurocognitive factors, risk contexts) pathways of influence. My hope is that this work will inform prevention and intervention efforts with respect to family functioning and child development.

To date, my research has been supported through R01 funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as through University-sponsored research projects. I am currently conducting an NICHD funded multi-method, six-year longitudinal study on the relative role of multiple mediators (e.g., psychological, physiological, cognitive) underlying spillover between interparental difficulties and perturbations in parenting in both mothers and fathers of young children. In addition, this project will detail the impact of COVID-19 on family processes.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • PSYC 276:  Psychology of Parenting
  • PSYC 310, 311:  Honors Seminar in Psychology
  • PSYC 377, 378:  Exploring Research in Family Psychology I and II
  • PSYC 514:  Structural Equation Modeling I
  • PSYC 565:  Early Child Development

Selected Publications

*denotes student authors

  • *Jacques, D. T., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., & Cicchetti, D. (2020). Maternal alcohol dependence and harsh caregiving across parenting contexts: The moderating role of child negative emotionality. Development and Psychopathology, 32, 1460-1472.
  • Li, Z., Sturge‐Apple, M. L., Liu, S., & Davies, P. T. (2020). Parent‐adolescent physiological synchrony: Moderating effects of adolescent emotional insecurity. Psychophysiology, 57(9).
  • Li, Z., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Liu, S., & Davies, P. T. (2020). Integrating a multilevel approach to examine family conflict and parent–adolescent physiological synchrony. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(7), 773.
  • *Skibo, M. L., Sturge-Apple, M.L., & *Suor, J. H. (2020). Biological sensitivity to caregiving and the development of children’s self-regulation. Development and Psychopathology, 32, 1509-1523.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Li, Z., Jones, H. R.*, Martin, M. J., & Davies, P. T. (2020). Mothers’ and fathers’ self-regulation capacity, dysfunctional attributions and hostile parenting during early adolescence: A process-oriented approach. Development and Psychopathology, 32, 229-241.
  • Sturge-Apple, M.L., Toth, S.L.., Suor, J.H.*, & Adams, T.R. (2019). Parental maltreatment. In M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of Parenting Volume 5 Social Conditions and Applied Parenting.
  • Li, Z., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Martin, M. J., & Davies, P. T. (2019). Interactive effects of family instability and adolescent stress reactivity on socioemotional functioning. Developmental Psychology, 55, 2193-2200.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., Cicchetti, D., Coe, J. L.*, & Hentges, R. F.* (2017). Family instability and children’s effortful control in the context of poverty: Sometimes a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Development and Psychopathology, 29, 685-696.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Jones, H. R.*, & Suor, J. H.* (2017). When stress gets into your head: Socioeconomic risk, executive functions, and maternal sensitivity across childrearing contexts. Journal of Family Psychology, 31, 160-169.
  • Suor, J. H.*, Sturge‐Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., & Cicchetti, D. (2017). A life history approach to delineating how harsh environments and hawk temperament traits differentially shape children's problem‐solving skills. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58, 902-909.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Suor, J. H.*, Davies, P. T., Cicchetti, D., Skibo, M. A.*, & Rogosch, F. A. (2016). Vagal tone and children’s delay of gratification: Differential sensitivity across resource poor and resource rich environments. Psychological Science, 27, 885-893.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Rogge, R. D., Peltz, J. S.*, Suor, J. H.*, & Skibo, M. A.*  (2015). Delving beyond conscious attitudes: Validation of an innovative tool for assessing parental implicit attitudes toward physical punishment. Infant and Child Development, 3, 240-255.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Rogge, R. D., Skibo, M. A.*, Peltz, J. S.*, & Suor, J. H.* (2015). A dual process approach to the role of mother's implicit and explicit attitudes toward their child in parenting models. Developmental Psychology, 3, 289-300.
  • Suor, J. H.*, Sturge-Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., Cicchetti, D., & Manning, L. G.* (2015). Tracing differential pathways of risk: Associations among family adversity, cortisol, and cognitive functioning in childhood. Child Development, 4, 1142-1158.
  • Toth, S. L., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Rogosch, F. A., & Cicchetti, D. (2015). Mechanisms of change: Testing how preventative interventions impact psychological and physiological stress functioning in mothers in neglected families. Development and Psychopathology, 27, 1661-1674.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., Cicchetti, D., & Frittoria, M. G.* (2014). A typology of interpartner conflict and maternal parenting practices in high-risk families: Examining spillover and compensatory models and implications for child adjustment. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 983-998.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., Cicchetti, D., & Manning, L. G.* (2012). Interparental violence, maternal emotional unavailability and children's cortisol functioning in family contexts. Developmental Psychology, 48, 237-249.
  • Sturge-Apple, M. L., Skibo, M. A.*, Rogosch, F. A., Ignjatovic, Z., & Heinzelman, W. (2011). The impact of allostatic load on maternal sympathovagal functioning in stressful child contexts: Implications for problematic parenting. Development and Psychopathology, 23, 831-844.