Tamara Afifi

Professor
Interpersonal Health Communication

Specialization

Interpersonal Communication, Family Communication, Stress and Communication; Biosocial Markers of Stress, Resilience and Thriving; Information Regulation

Bio

Tamara Afifi is a Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on family and interpersonal communication in two domains: (1) how people communicate when they are stressed and its impact on personal and relational health, and (2) information regulation (e.g., avoidance, privacy, secrets, stress contagion effects).  In particular, she examines the theoretical properties of family members’ communication patterns (e.g., conflict, social support, avoidance, verbal rumination, communal coping) across a variety of stressful situations, to explain and predict biological stress responses, resilience/thriving, and personal/relational health. Much of her current research involves testing her new theory called the Theory of Resilience and Relational Load), which brings together multiple, cross disciplinary bodies of literature on stress and relational resilience. Other research focuses on the theoretical properties and functionality of communal coping, the impact of divorce on children, and investigating how and why people manage their private information and its impact on health. Finally, Dr. Afifi is one of only a handful of scholars who studies whole families in such a detailed and innovative manner. She often triangulates data and methods, including unique combinations of surveys with whole families, longitudinal diary data, lab interactions, field studies in families’ homes, observational coding, biological markers (e.g., immune markers, hair cortisol for chronic stress), virtual reality, and qualitative data. Her work often includes community-based populations that are difficult to access (e.g., undocumented immigrants, refugees, residents with Alzheimer’s, families with chronic illnesses).

Dr. Afifi has received numerous recognitions for her scholarship, service, and teaching. She was cited as the most published Assistant or Associate Professor in national and international communication journals in 2005 when she was an Assistant Professor (Bunz, Journal of Communication, 2005) and then was identified in the top 1% of scholars published in top journals in the field of Communication and the #3 ranked scholar overall in the entire discipline 12 years later (Griffin et al., Communication Education, 2017). She was elected Fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA), received the Young Scholar Award from ICA, and received the Brommel Award for a distinguished career in family communication from the National Communication Association (NCA). In addition, Dr. Afifi received the Franklin Knower Article Award for the best article in interpersonal communication from NCA four times, Distinguished Article awards from the Communication and Social Cognition Division and the Family Communication Division of NCA, and the Garrison Award from ICA’s Interpersonal Communication Division. She has also received 34 top paper awards. One of her most notable contributions to NCA was as Editor of Communication Monographs (2016-2019), for which she received a Presidential Citation Award. In addition, she has received several teaching awards, including a university-wide distinguished teaching award at UCSB. Finally, Professor Afifi has also secured external funding through agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NICHD and NIA). She is currently the PI on a project funded by the National Institute on Aging, examining the use of virtual reality with residents who have dementia and their family member who live at a distance. Her research has appeared in numerous news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Oprah MagazineMen’s Health, the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, Canadian LivingFamily Circle. and OptionB.org.