NCFR Recognizes Thomas Bradbury for Outstanding Scholarship

Thomas Bradbury

The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) is proud to recognize Thomas N. Bradbury, Ph.D., as the 2020 recipient of the Ernest W. Burgess Award, which recognizes an NCFR member's outstanding scholarly achievement in the study of families. The recipient is chosen in recognition of continuous and meritorious contributions to theory and research in the family field.

Dr. Bradbury is a distinguished professor of clinical psychology at UCLA. He earned his doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and then moved directly into a faculty position in the Department of Psychology in 1990, where he advanced to tenure after four years, and became a full professor after another four years. Dr. Bradbury specializes in using interviews and in-home observations to examine how intimate relationships develop and change.

The recipient of the American Psychology Association’s Distinguished Early Career Award, Dr. Bradbury has published more than 200 research articles to scholarly journals, edited books including The Psychology of Marriage and The Developmental Course of Marital Dysfunction, and co-authored books including Intimate Relationships. He served as associate editor for Journal of Family Psychology and has been an editorial board member of numerous scholarly journals including Journal of Marriage and Family and Family Relations.

Dr. Bradbury’s publications have been widely cited. His most highly-cited empirical work, “Neuroticism, marital interaction, and the trajectory of marital satisfaction and observed couple communication,” has been was cited 955 times. The first author on this paper, NCFR member Benjamin R. Karney, was Dr. Bradbury’s graduate student at the time. This paper received the Reuben Hill Award from NCFR in 1997, an honor Dr. Bradbury has received a total of three times.

In his letter of nomination, Dr. Frank Fincham describes in detail how Dr. Bradbury has influenced the family field through his empirical findings, literature reviews, innovative approaches, insightful research questions, novel methodologies, and commitment to mentorship. Dr. Fincham writes that because of Dr. Bradbury’s work, “scholars now approach couple relationships in a much more comprehensive and differentiated manner than they did before he joined the field.” Dr. Fincham details how Dr. Bradbury’s theories have been “unusually effective” at predicting relationship quality and praised the care of his longitudinal studies that document how couples evaluate their partnerships. He writes, “This is a highly innovative and generative program of research, yielding important theoretical, empirical, and clinical results.”  

Ernest W. Burgess, the namesake of this award, cofounded NCFR and was the organization's fourth president. He was a pioneer in his contributions to marriage and family research.

Dr. Bradbury was recognized for his achievement at a special Awards Ceremony during the 2020 NCFR Annual Conference on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 at 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. CT.

The National Council on Family Relations is the premier professional association for the multidisciplinary understanding of families. NCFR has a membership of nearly 3,000 family researchers, practitioners and educators. For more information on the National Council on Family Relations or its scholarly publications, visit the NCFR website at