Colleen Murray, Ph.D.

Professor, Sociology and Social Psychology; Adjunct Professor, Human Development & Family Studies
Colleen Murray


Colleen Murray is a professor of sociology and interdisciplinary social psychology and an adjunct professor of human development and family studies. She is an affiliate/associate faculty member in four University of Nevada, Reno academic programs - Public Health, Justice Management, the Gerontology Academic Program, and Gender, Race, and Identity. She also served as director of the interdisciplinary social psychology Ph.D. program (2003-2015) and interim director of the School of Social Research and Justice Studies (2011-2012). She is recognized as a Fellow in Thanatology by the Association for Death Education and Counseling.

Professor Murray received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University in family relations and human development, with a minor in family sociology and an additional minor in research methods and statistics. Before attending graduate school, she was a math and science teacher in Florida and inner-city schools in northeastern Ohio. She also worked as a waitress in a small town restaurant, retail clerk, driver for Head Start, English tutor for university students, math tutor for inner-city children and summer community recreation program director, as well as holding jobs working in the fields on a strawberry farm and picking tomatoes in a hothouse.

Murray enjoys teaching and research in topics that are interdisciplinary in nature, combining sociological and psychological components. Her recent teaching includes courses in grief and loss, research methods in social psychology, family sociology, statistics, adolescence, family theories and families and health. Her scholarly interests are in: (1) grief and loss as related to the family, mass media, and culture; (2) the intersection of the social psychologies of health and justice in areas of technologies, loss, families, and adolescents; (3) improving research methods and theories, including integrating multiple family theories in the study of relationships; and (4) the social construction of relationships and self in the context of culture, media, gender, and adolescence.

She has published numerous book chapters, as well as peer-reviewed articles in journals such as Family Relations, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Journal of Selected Papers in Asian Studies, Journal of Early Adolescence, and Psychology of Women Quarterly. Murray has been awarded over $2 million in grants. Her work includes both quantitative and qualitative components and uses a range of methods including surveys, interviews, content analysis, observations, secondary data analysis and focus groups.

Murray is active in several ongoing projects. She is a co-principal investigator on an NSF-funded project in which she works on a team with faculty and students from mechanical engineering, computer science, geological sciences and social psychology on the use of drones by first responders in rescues during earthquakes and wild fires. The project also uses focus groups and M-Turk samples to examine attitudes of first responders and the general public toward civilian (non-military) uses of drones. The intersection of social psychology of law/justice and the social psychology of health facilitates this study of the risks and benefits of new technologies. Faculty and student members of Murray's social behavioral drone lab group meet weekly.

Murray is also conducting analysis of interview and survey data collected with her graduate students on the experiences of mixed-document status immigrant families from Mexico and Central America. This study of families, in which some members are documented immigrants and others are not, is also being used to test and refine a culturally-responsive theoretical model of family stress-in-context that they have been developing.

She has several on-going projects with current doctoral students and recent graduates. Here are some examples:

  • the application of terror management and risk-related theories to the study of perceptions about the legality and civilian use of drones
  • the application of "western" theories to families or media reporting in other cultures. An example is our current work on causal attributions in newspaper reporting of mass murders in Japan and the United States
  • experiences and barriers in communication about end of life decisions
  • decisions to stay or leave new religious movements: costs and rewards, loss and gain
  • studying the intersection (or "dance") between post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic growth of bereaved parents and bereaved university students, using both standard instruments and an examination of their narratives. The topic is also being examined in a study of National Guard members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. An additional study examines these elements in lyrics of songs about/for Hurricane Katrina.
  • analysis of historic newspapers for the reporting of mass tragedies (e.g. the sinking of the Titanic and Lusitania, San Francisco earthquake and Chicago fire) and its relationship to 20th/21st century theories of grief. (A project seeking research members)
  • seeking students with interest in conducting research in the new UNR Flying Machine Arena (drone arena) which will allow for collecting video on human-drone interaction


  • Murray, C.I. (2017). Death, dying, and grief in families (pp. 359-380). In C.A. Price, K.R. Bush, & S.J. Price (Eds). Families and change: Coping with stressful events and transitions. Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Murray, C.I. (2016). Young children's understanding of grief and loss. In Donna Couchenour and Kent Christianson (Eds.). Sage encyclopedia of contemporary early childhood education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Gilbert, K.R., & Murray, C.I. (2013). The family, institutional/societal systems, and death education (pp. 367-378). In D.K. Meager & D.E. Balk (Eds.).  Handbook on thanatology: The essential book of knowledge for the study of death, dying, and bereavement (2nd edition). Deerfield, IL: Association for Death Education and Counseling.
  • Clinkinbeard, S.S. & Murray, C.I. (2012). Perceived support, belonging, and possible self strategies among incarcerated juvenile offenders. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42, 1218-1240.
  • Murray, C.I., & Villalobos, J.G. (2012). Mexican families with undocumented immigrant members: A stress-in-context model. Proceedings of the Theory Construction and Research Methodology Preconference of the National Council on Family Relations. TC1B-2, 1-34. Phoenix, AZ: NCFR.
  • Murray, C.I. & Aramburu-Alegria, C. (2011). Clarifying family as context of care and family as focus of care in family health (pp. 197-202). In M.J. Craft-Rosenberg & S.R. Pehler (Eds.) Encyclopedia of family health. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Murray, C.I. & Diaconu-Muresan, A. (2011). Research perspectives used in the study of families (pp. 890-894). In M.J. Craft-Rosenberg & S.R. Pehler (Eds.) Encyclopedia of family health. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Murray, C.I., Toth, K., Larsen, B.L., & Moulton, S. (2010). Death, dying, and grief (pp. 73-96). In S. J. Price, C. Price and P.C. McKenry (posthumously). Families and change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Merlino, M., Murray, C.I., & Richardson, J.T. (2008). Judicial gatekeeping and the social construction of the admissibility of expert testimony. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 26, 187-206.
  • Toth, K., Murray, C., & Weigel, D. (2006). Gender differences in the intergenerational transmission of relational commitment. Australian Journal of Psychology, 221-222. [Extended version in Ross B. Wilkinson & Z. Pearce (Eds.) Relationships - Near and Far: Proceedings of the 6th annual conference of Australian Psychological Society, Psychology of Relationships Interest Group, 108-114. Melbourne, Australia]
  • Murray, C.I., & Kimura, N. (2006). Families in Japan. (pp. 291-310) In B.B. Ingoldsby & S.D. Smith (Eds.) Families in global and multicultural perspective. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Murray, C.I., Finholm, M., Toth, K., & Pettis, C.T. (2005). Post-traumatic growth and terror management theory as a framework for exploring meaning construction in families with the loss. (pp. 9-34). Proceedings of the Theory Construction and Research Methodology Preconference of the National Council on Family Relations. Phoenix, AZ: NCFR.
  • Murray, C.I., & Gilbert, K. (2005). River of grief: Hearing parents and siblings following child death. (pp. 436-439 & 443-445). In V. Bengtson, A. Acock, K. Allen, D. Klein, et al (Eds.) Sourcebook of family theory and methods (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Weigel, D. & Murray, C.I. (2005). The paradox of stability and change in relationships: What does chaos theory offer for the study of romantic relationships? (edited version with commentary). In W. Dragon & S. Duck (Eds.). Understanding research in personal relationships. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (Originally published in 2000 in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 17, 425-449).
  • Murray, C.I., & Kimura, N. (2003). The multiplicity of paths to couple formation in Japan. (pp. 247-268). In R.R. Hamon & B.B. Ingoldsby (Eds.) Couple formation across cultures. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Murray, C.I., & Weigel, D.J. (2002). Integrating social constructionism and chaos theory: A dynamic framework for exploring commitment in coupled relationships. (pp. 105-139). Proceedings of the Theory Construction and Research Methodology Preconference of the National Council on Family Relations. Vancouver, BC, CA: NCFR.
  • Baber, K.M. & Murray, C.I. (2001) A postmodern feminist approach to teaching human sexuality. Family Relations, 50, 23-33.
  • Kimura, N., & Murray, C.I. (1998). Cultural archetypes of adolescent females in human relationships in teen magazines in Japan and the United States. Journal of Selected Papers in Asian Studies, 1, 153-160.
  • Crosbie-Burnett, M., Foster, T.L., Murray, C.I., & Bowen, G.L. (1996). Gays' and lesbians' families-of-origin: A social-cognitive-behavioral model of adjustment. Family Relations, 45, 397-403.
  • Murray, C.I., & Leigh, G.L. (1995). Families and sexuality (pp. 186-204). In R.D. Day, K.R. Gilbert, B.H. Settles, & W.R. Burr (Eds.) Research and theory in family science. Brooks/Cole.
  • Essa, E.L., Murray, C.I. (1994). Research in review: Young children's understanding and experience with death.  Young Children, 49(4), 74-81.
  • Murray, C.I. (1993). Enhancing family science research through inclusion of feminist principles. Family Science Review, 6, 1-19.
  • Murray, C.I. (1991). Misuse of linear models in the study of families. Family Science Review, 4, 145-163.
  • McKenry, P.C., Hamdorf, K.G., Walters, C.M., & Murray, C.I. (1985). Family and job influences on role satisfaction of employed rural mothers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 9(2), 242-257.
  • Newman, B.M., & Murray, C.I. (1983). Identity and family relations in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 3, 293-303.

Selected examples of reviewer for manuscripts from journals/books

  • Journal of Marriage and Family
  • Journal of Applied Social Psychology
  • Stress and Health
  • Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
  • Psychology, Crime and Law
  • Journal of Adolescent Research
  • Family Perspectives
  • Journal of Family Issues
  • Democracy and Security
  • Family Science Review
  • Journal of Family Theory and Review
  • Journal of Family Communication
  • Vanderbilt University Press
  • McGraw-Hill
  • Routledge

Ph.D. students


  • Ph.D., Ohio State University
  • M.A., University of Akron
  • B.S., University of Akron