About Professor Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck


Dr. Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck completed her PhD in Applied Developmental Psychology (Systems Science/Psychology) at Portland State University (Oregon, USA) in Sept 1998. She has been with the School of Applied Psychology at Griffith University since Sept 2001. Prior to this, from 1999 to 2001, Dr. Zimmer-Gembeck was a National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow in a multidisciplinary training program at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA. At U of M she worked with Faculty at the Life Course Center (Department of Sociology) and the Institute of Child Development. She also worked at the Oregon Health Department in Program Design and Evaluation Services on projects related to teen parenting, reproductive health, and health care access, and she has was a Research Associate at Oregon Health & Sciences University (Evidence-based Practice Center) from 1992-1999. At OHSU she was fortunate to work with world leaders on health care access, decision-making, and best treatment practice across a range of areas – prenatal care, thyroid screening, cervical screening, colon disease, traumatic brain injury, and adolescent risk behavior.

Currently, at Griffith University, she is the Director of the Family Interaction Program and co-leader of the Healthy Young Minds Research Group, developers of the Life-Fit-Learning assessment tool. She recently served as the PhD Program Director from 2017 until taking the role of Acting DHOS (Research) from 2018-early 2019.

See the Happy Lab, too!: https://hapiresearchlab.com/collaborators/

She was recently the Chair of the 2018 International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development. This conference was held on the Gold Coast, Australia, 15-19 July 2018.

Dr. Zimmer-Gembeck currently holds grants totaling approx $8 million from Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, ARC, NHMRC, Swiss Science, Rotary, and the Menzies Health Institute of Queensland. In the past she has held grants from the ARC, Rotary Health Fund, Rotary Mental Health Intervention Fund, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, and National Institutes of Health. In total, her research  has been been supported from grants totalling more than $10 million since 2002.

Current research areas include

  • The interface of children’s and adolescents’ relationships with peers (e.g. friendships, romantic relationships, peer status, and sexual behavior) and individual development
  • The development of the self-system (e.g. autonomy, identity, self-perceptions, self-determination, self-regulation, self-esteem)
  • Relational aggression, externalizing behaviours, and internalizing symptoms (especially in relation to gender)
  • Intervention programs for children and adolescents
  • Statistical methods for analyzing change
  • Coping and stress
  • Parenting
  • Emotion and emotion regulation

Dr. Zimmer-Gembeck is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Behavioral Development. She is also on the Editorial Board of Journal of Relationships Research. She is a past Co-Editor of the Journal of Adolescence and has served on multiple other journal editorial boards in the past.

While at PSU working on her PhD, Dr. Zimmer-Gembeck worked with Dr. Ellen Skinner investigating development of perceived control and teacher-student relationships in middle childhood and early adolescence, drawing from Self-Determination Theory and illustrating the use of growth curve modeling (Skinner, Zimmer-Gembeck, & Connell, 1998). Her research with Dr. Skinner examined a self-system model of the development of academic engagement in the classroom incorporating the social context (teacher-student relationships), self (beliefs about control), action (motivation), and behavioral outcomes (academic achievement). At the same time, she also completed her dissertation on a different topic – adolescent dating and romance. Her research for her PhD thesis examined girls’ individual differences in the development of romantic relationships during adolescence, the impact of dating behavior on same-sex friendships, the interface of dating, friendships and individual psychosocial functioning. This work also had a focus on aggression in dating relationships (dating violence) as a particular risk for social isolation and friendship change (Zimmer-Gembeck, 1999, 2002).

Dr. Zimmer-Gembeck has published more than 230 empirical and review papers, book chapters, monographs and edited books and holds a number of research grants. She is Director of the Family Interaction Program at Griffith University, which includes a number of research programs and interventions (e.g., Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Circle of Security, SYN*APPS) to support Gold Coast-area families.

Dr. Zimmer-Gembeck was awarded the 2017 Health PVC Award for Research Excellence, as well as the 2013 GU Health Group Award for Research Excellence in Postgraduate Supervision. She is currently supervising 2 postdoctoral fellows and 16 PhD students. In addition, she has supervised the research projects of 43 postgraduate students (25 PhD, 9 DPsych, and 9 Master’s in Clinical Psychology) and 33 honours students to completion. She leads a team of more than 10 staff who work as research assistants and psychologists within The Family Interaction Research Program (FIP) and on other research projects.

Professional Affiliations

  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • American Psychological Society (APS)
  • Australian Psychological Society (APS)
  • International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development (ISSBD)
  • Society for Prevention Research (SPR)
  • Society for Research in Adolescence (SRA)
  • Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)
  • Psychology of Relationships Interest Group (APS)