Associate Professor of Communication


CI 333

Kristina Scharp’s research meets at the intersection of interpersonal, family, and health communication with a particular focus on difficult family transitions and the process of marginalization. She most often examines marginalization in the contexts of relational/family distancing, complicated health diagnoses, and disenfranchised student populations.


University of Iowa
PhD, Communication Studies

University of Iowa
MA, Communication Studies

University of Richmond
BA, International Studies; German


Kristina Scharp’s research programmatically advances communication theory and method with the aim of (a) exposing institutionalized structures of oppression, (b) understanding the populations those structures marginalize, and (c) illuminating communication processes marginalized populations enact to cope with the inequities they experience. Although her work is often framed by Relational Dialectics Theory and the Communication Theory of Resilience, she is currently working to advance a Theory of Relational Distancing. Scharp has also developed her own qualitative research method, thematic co-occurrence analysis. In addition to advancing theory and method, one of her primary goals is to translate her research through public outreach (e.g., consulting with clinicians and policymakers) and through the popular press.

Overall, Scharp primarily conducts research about the following communication processes:

· Remaking – disrupting the taken-for-granted assumptions that foster inequity

· Resistance – challenging institutional structures and hegemonic ideologies

· Resilience – understanding how marginalized populations make sense of and respond to the major disruptions to and transition in their lives

This research extends across contexts such as relational/family distancing (e.g., family estrangement, parental alienation, adoption, etc.), complicated health diagnoses (e.g., postpartum depression, abortion due to health complications, hearing loss, etc.), and disenfranchised student populations/experiences (e.g., homesickness, undergraduate student parents, first-generation college students, etc.).

Centers, Labs, Working Groups, and Clusters

Funded Projects

To support her research, Scharp has been awarded both internal and extramural funding. In total, she has completed $186,552 ($92,774 internal and $93,778 external) of grant-supported work.

Selected Publications

Scharp, K. M., Wang, T. R., & **Wolfe, B. H. (2022). Communicative resilience of first-generation college students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Human Communication Research, 48(1), 1–30. 

Scharp, K. M., **Geary, D., **Wolfe, B. H., Wang, T. R., & **Fesenmaier, M. (2021). Understanding the triggers and communication processes that constitute resilience in the context of migration to the United States. Communication Monographs, 88(4), 395–417.

Scharp, K. M., **Cooper, R., *Worwood, J., & Dorrance Hall, E. (2021). “There’s always going to be uncertainty.”: Exploring undergraduate student parents’ sources of uncertainty and related management practices. Communication Research, 48(7), 1059–1084.

Scharp, K. M. (2021). Thematic co-occurrence analysis: Advancing a theory and qualitative method to illuminate ambivalent experiences. Journal of Communication, 71(4), 545–571.

Scharp, K. M. (2019). “You’re not welcome here:” A grounded theory of family distancing. Communication Research, 46(4), 427–455.

Awards & Recognitions

  •  2022  Jack Kay Award for Community Engagement and Applied Communication Scholarship, Central States Communication Association
  • 2021  Distinguished Article Award,  Family Communication Division, National Communication Association
  •  2021  Early Career Scholar Award, International Communication Association
  • 2020  Leslie A. Baxter Early Career Award in Family Communication, Family Communication Division, National Communication Association  
  • 2019  Dawn O. Braithwaite Award for Qualitative Research,  Interpersonal and Family Communication DivisionCentral States Communication Association   

Additional Resources


Scharp, K. M., & Dorrance Hall, E. (forthcoming). Communication research: Conducting qualitative and quantitative methods. Cognella.

Floyd, K., Schrodt, P., Erbert, L. A., & Scharp, K. M. (2022). Exploring communication theory: Making sense of us. Taylor & Francis.

Dorrance Hall, E., & Scharp, K. M. (2020). Communication in family contexts: Applying theories and processes to family relationships. Wiley-Blackwell.

Research Keywords