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

Spencer, MB, McDermott, P, Burton, LM, and Cole, S. "An alternative approach for assessing neighborhood effects on early adolescent achievement and problem behavior." Neighborhood poverty: Context and consequences for children. Ed. G Duncan, J Brooks-Gunn, and L Aber. New York: Russell Sage, 1997.

Burton, LM, Obeidallah, DO, and Allison, K. "Ethnographic perspectives on social context and adolescent development among inner-city African American teens." Essays on ethnography and human development. Ed. R Jessor, A Colby, and R Shweder. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Burton, LM. "The timing of childbearing, family structure, and the role responsibilities of aging black women." Stress and coping in children and families. Ed. EM Hetherington and E Blechman. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996. 155-172.

Bengtson, VL, Rosenthal, C, and Burton, L. "Paradoxes of families and aging at the turn of the century." Handbook of aging and the social sciences. Ed. R Binstock and L George. New York: Academic Press, 1995.

Burton, LM. "Intergenerational patterns of providing care in African-American families with teenage childbearers: Emergent patterns in an ethnographic study." Intergenerational issues in aging. Ed. KW Schaie, VL Bengtson, and LM Burton. New York: Springer, 1995. 79-96.

Burton, LM, Allison, K, and Obeidallah, D. "Social context and adolescence: Perspectives on development among inner-city African-American teens." Pathways through adolescence: Individual development in relation to social context. Ed. L Crockett and A Crouter. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1995. 119-138.

Stack, CB, and Burton, LM. "Kinscripts: Reflections on family, generation, and culture." Mothering: Ideology, experience, and agency. Ed. EN Glenn, G Chang, and LR Forcey. London, England: Routledge, 1994. 33-44.

Burton, LM, and Stack, CB. "Kinscripts and adolescent childbearing." The politics of pregnancy. Ed. DL Rhode and A Lawson. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993. 174-185.

Dilworth-Anderson, P, Burton, LM, and Boulin-Johnson, L. "Reframing theories for understanding race, ethnicity, and family." Sourcebook of family theories and methods: A contextual approach. Ed. WD Boss, W Doherty, R Larossa, W Schumm, and S Steinmetz. New York: Plenum Press, 1993. 627-646.


Burton, LM, and Bromell, L. "Childhood illness, family comorbidity, and cumulative disadvantage: An ethnographic treatise on low-income mothers' health in later life." Annual Review of Gertontology and Geriatrics (2010): 231-263. (Academic Article)

Burton, LM, and Stack, CB. "Ethnography: A method that "rocks" our soul." NCFR Reports 55.F5-F8 (2010). (Academic Article)

Burton, LM, Cherlin, A, Winn, DM, Estacion, A, and Holder Taylor, C. "The role of trust in low-income mothers' intimate unions." Journal of Marriage and Family 71 (December 2009): 1107-1127. (Academic Article)

Burton, LM, and Tucker, MB. "Romantic unions in an era of uncertainty: A post-Moynihan perspective on African American women and marriage." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 62 (2009): 132-148. (Academic Article)

Burton, LM, and Cherlin, A. "'Trust is like Jell-O': Forms of trust in low-income mothers' romantic unions." NCFR Reports 44 (2009): F2-F5.

Cherlin, A, Cross Barnett, C, Burton, L, and Garrett Peters, R. "Promises they can keep: Low-income women’s attitudes toward motherhood and marriage." Journal of Marriage and Family 70.4 (2008): 919-933. (Academic Article)

Matthews, S, Burton, LM, and Detwiler, J. "Geoethnography: Coupling geographic information analysis techniques with ethnographic methods in urban research." Cartographica 40.4 (2006): 75-90.

McHale, SM, Crouter, AC, Kim, JY, Burton, LM, DAvis, K, Dotterer, A, and Swanson, D. "Mothers’ and fathers’ racial socialization in African American families: Implications for youth." Child Development 77 (2006): 1387-1402. (Academic Article)