Colleen Colaner

Colleen Colaner
Associate Professor
212 Switzler Hall

Director of Graduate Studies

Dr. Colleen Colaner's research examines how communication shapes and sustains relationships in complex, diverse, and modern family structures and experiences. Specifically, her work centers on discourse dependence and identity formation in range of family forms. A major focus of her research is communication in adoptive families, examining how parental communication facilitates the formation of an adoptive identity and sustains open adoption relationships with birth families. Colleen also researches links between family communication and diverse social identities, such as religion and political identification. Her recent work also examines children's perception of family communication. Colleen's work has been published in Communication Monographs, Communication Research, Sex Roles, Journal of Family Communication, and Adoption Quarterly in addition to regional and specialty journalsShe has also presented her work and received top paper awards at a number of regional and national conferences. Colleen is on the editorial board of Journal of Family Communication and Western Journal of Communication. Colleen is active in the family and interpersonal divisions of the National Communication Association.

Colleen’s work has been supported with grants from the Organization for Research on Women and Communication as well as the University of Missouri (Research Council, Arts and Science Alumni Organization Faculty Incentive Grant, and the Richard Wallace Alumni Fund). She was also the recipient of a University of Missouri College of Arts and Science fellowship in 2015. Colleen is the founder and co-director of the Institute of Family Diversity and Communication (, an interdisciplinary working group of researchers examining issues facing modern families.

Frequently Taught Courses 
COMMUN 3561 Relational Communication
COMMUN 4520 Family Communication
COMMUN 4701 Children’s Communication
COMMUN 8310 Seminar in Interpersonal Communication 
COMMUN 9330 Communication and Family Diversity

Research Interests 
Identity in family and personal relationships; discourse dependence and identity formation in diverse families; adoptive families, with an emphasis on open adoption communication; interfaith families, feminist identity development

Selected Recent Publications

Colaner, C. W., Horstman, H. K., & Rittenour, C. E. (accepted). Adult adoptee family identification with birth and adoptive families: An application of the Common Ingroup Identity Model. Western Journal of Communication.

Colaner, C. W., & Soliz, J. (2017). A communication-based approach to adoptive identity: Theoretical and empirical support. Communication Research, 44, 611-637. doi: 10.1177/0093650215577860

Horstman, H. K., Butauski, M., Johnsen, L. J., & Colaner, C. W. (2017). The communication privacy management of adopted individuals in their social networks: Disclosure decisions in light of the discourse of biological normativity. Communication Studies. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1080/10510974.2017.1324890

Horstman, H. K., Colaner, C. W., & Rittenour, C. E. (2016). Contributing factors of adult adoptees’ identity work and self-esteem: Family communication patterns and adoption-specific communication. Journal of Family Communication, 16, 263-276. doi: 10.1080/15267431.2016. 1181069

Colaner, C. W., & Scharp, K. (2016). Maintaining open adoption relationships: Practitioner insights on adoptive parents’ regulation of adoption kinship networks. Communication Studies, 67, 359-378. doi: 10.1080/10510974.2016.1164208

Hays, A., & Colaner, C. W. (2016). Discursively constructing identity after an autism diagnosis: Trials, tribulations, and triumphs. Journal of Family Communication, 16, 143-159. doi: 10.1080/15267431.2016.1146722

Hays, A., Horstman, H., Colaner, C. W., & Nelson, L. (2016). “She chose us to be your parents”: Exploring the content and process of adoption entrance narratives told in families formed through open adoption. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33, 917-937. doi: 10.1177/0265407515611494