Linda Burton

Linda Burton

James B. Duke Professor of Sociology

External Address: 
302 Towerview Road, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Box 90545, Durham, NC 27708-0545
(919) 613-9258


My program of research is conceptually grounded in life course, developmental, and ecological perspectives and focuses on three themes concerning the lives of America's poorest urban, small town, and rural families: (1) intergenerational family structures, processes, and role transitions; (2) the meaning of context and place in the daily lives of families; and, (3) childhood adultification and the accelerated life course. My methodological approach to exploring these issues is comparative, longitudinal, and multi-method. The comparative dimension of my research comprises in-depth within group analysis of low income African American, White, and, Hispanic/Latino families, as well as systematic examinations of similarities and differences across groups. I employ longitudinal designs in my studies to identify distinct and often nuanced contextual and ethnic/racial features of development that shape the family structures, processes (e.g., intergenerational care-giving) and life course transitions (e.g., grandparenthood, marriage) families experience over time. I am principally an ethnographer, but integrate survey and geographic and spatial analysis in my work. I was one of six principal investigators involved in an multisite, multi-method collaborative study of the impact of welfare reform on families and children (Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three-City Study). I directed the ethnographic component of the Three-City Study and was also principal investigator of an ethnographic study of rural poverty and child development (The Family Life Project).

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of Southern California 1985

  • M.S., University of Southern California 1982

  • B.S., University of Southern California 1978

Skinner, D, Lachicotte, W, and Burton, LM. "Childhood disability and poverty: How families navigate health care and coverage." Health and medical care. Ed. BA Arrighi and DJ Maume. New York: Praeger Press, 2007.

Burton, LM, and Whitfield, KE. "Health, aging, and America’s poor: Ethnographic insights on family co-morbidity and cumulative disadvantage." Aging, globalization and inequality: The new critical gerontology. Ed. J Baars, D Dannefer, C Phillipson, and A Walker. New York: Baywood, 2006.

Burton, LM, and Lein, L. "Welfare and low-wage work: A troubled and troubling environment." Doing without: Women and work after welfare reform. Ed. J Henrici. University of Arizona Press, 2006.

Skinner, D, Lachicotte, W, and Burton, LM. "The difference disability makes: Managing childhood disability, poverty, and work." Doing without: Women and work after welfare reform. Ed. J Henrici. University of Arizona Press, 2006.

McLoyd, V, Aikens, NL, and Burton, LM. "Poverty and childrens well being: Linking research, policy, and practice." Handbook of child psychology. Ed. I Siegal and A Renninger. New York: Wiley, 2006.

Tubbs, CY, and Burton, LM. "Bridging research using ethnography to inform clinical practice." Research methods in family therapy. Ed. DH Sprenkle and FP Piercy. New York: Guilford Press, 2006.

Burton, LM, Lein, L, and Kolak, A. "Health and mothers' employment in low-income families." Work, Family, Health, and Well-Being. June 2, 2005. 489-505. Full Text

Burton, LM, and Lawson-Clark, S. "Homeplace and housing in the lives of low-income urban African American families." Emerging issues in African American family life. Ed. VC McLoyd, K Dodge, and N Hill. New York: Guilford Press, 2005.

Skinner, D, Matthews, S, and Burton, LM. "Combining ethnography and GIS to examine constructions of developmental opportunities in contexts of poverty and disability." Discovering successful pathways in children’s development: New methods in the study of childhood and family life. Ed. T Weisner. University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Dilworth-Anderson, P, Burton, LM, and Klein, D. "Contemporary and emerging theories studying families." Sourcebook of family theory and research. Ed. V Bengtson, K Allen, P Dilworth-Anderson, and D Klein. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004.


Burton, LM. "Seeking Romance in the Crosshairs of Multiple-Partner Fertility." Ed. MJ Carlson and DR Meyer. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 654.1 (July 2014): 185-212. Full Text

Berry, D, Blair, C, Ursache, A, Willoughby, MT, Granger, DA, and Family Life Project Key Investigators, . "Early childcare, executive functioning, and the moderating role of early stress physiology." Developmental psychology 50.4 (April 2014): 1250-1261. Full Text

Burton, LM, Lichter, DT, Baker, RS, and Eason, JM. "Inequality, Family Processes, and Health in the "New" Rural America." American Behavioral Scientist 57.8 (August 1, 2013): 1128-1151. Full Text

Barnett, MA, Mills-Koonce, WR, Gustafsson, H, and Cox, M. "Mother-Grandmother Conflict, Negative Parenting, and Young Children's Social Development in Multigenerational Families." Family Relations 61.5 (December 2012): 864-877. Full Text

Vernon-Feagans, L, Garrett-Peters, P, Willoughby, M, and Mills-Koonce, R. "Chaos, poverty, and parenting: Predictors of early language development." Early Childhood Research Quarterly 27.3 (July 2012): 339-351. Full Text

Burton, LM, Garrett-Peters, R, Mora, R, and Welsh, W. "El que diran and the romantic unions of low-income Latina mothers: An ethnographic perspective." (2012). (Academic Article)

Welsh, W, and Burton, LM. "Home and heart: Housing and relationship power among low-income mothers." (2012). (Academic Article)

Welsh, W, and Burton, LM. "Weapons of the weak and housing in the lives of low-income mothers." (2012). (Academic Article)

Burton, LM, Welsh, WC, R L, L, T, , and Kull, M. "Public housing use trajectories in the adult lives of low-income mothers: A mixed methods analysis." (2012). (Academic Article)

Burton, LM, Welsh, W, and Flippen, C. "Race, housing, and intimate union power in the lives of low-income mothers." (2012). (Academic Article)