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).
Cherlin, A, Bogen, K, Quane, J, and Burton, LM. "Operating within the rules: Welfare recipients’ experiences with sanctions and case closings for noncompliance." Social Service Review 76 (2002): 387-405. (Academic Article)
Burton, LM, and Jarrett, RL. "In the Mix, Yet on the Margins: The Place of Families in Urban Neighborhood and Child Development Research." Journal of Marriage and Family 62.4 (November 2000): 1114-1135. Full Text
Allison, KW, Burton, L, Marshall, S, Perez-Febles, A, Yarrington, J, Kirsh, LB, and Merriwether-DeVries, C. "Life experiences among urban adolescents: examining the role of context." Child development 70.4 (July 1999): 1017-1029. Full Text
Allison, KW, Crawford, I, Leone, PE, Trickett, E, Perez-Febles, A, Burton, LM, and Le Blanc, R. "Adolescent substance use: preliminary examinations of school and neighborhood context." American journal of community psychology 27.2 (April 1999): 111-141. Full Text
Jarrett, RL, and Burton, LM. "Dynamic dimensions of family structure in low-income African American families: Emergent themes in qualitative research." Journal of Comparative Family Studies 30.2 (March 1, 1999): 177-187.
Burton, LM. "Ethnography and the Meaning of Adolescence in High-Risk Neighborhoods." Ethos 25.2 (June 1997): 208-217. Full Text
Dilworth-Anderson, P, and Burton, LM. "Rethinking Family Development: Critical Conceptual Issues in the Study of Diverse Groups." Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 13.3 (August 1996): 325-334. Full Text
Burton, LM. "Age norms, the timing of family role transitions, and intergenerational caregiving among aging African American women." The Gerontologist 36.2 (April 1996): 199-208. Full Text
Burton, LM, Dilworth-Anderson, P, and Merriwether-de Vries, C. "Context and Surrogate Parenting Among Contemporary Grandparents." Marriage & Family Review 20.3-4 (October 28, 1994): 349-366. Full Text
Burton, LM. "Intergenerational legacies and intimate relationships: Perspectives on adolescent mothers and fathers." ISSPR Bulletin 10 (1994): 2-5. (Academic Article)