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).
Burton, LM, and Martin, P. "Thematikin der mehrgenerationenfamilie: Ein beispiel (Themes in multigeneration families: An example)." German Journal of Gerontology 21(June) (1987): 275-282. (Academic Article)
Hagestad, GO, and Burton, LM. "Grandparenthood, life context, and family development." American Behavioral Scientist 29 (1986): 471-484. (Academic Article)
Bengtson, VL, and Burton, L. "Mental health and the black elderly: Competence, susceptibility, and quality of life." Journal of Minority Aging 7.3 & 4 (1981): 25-31.
Welsh, W, and Burton, L. "Home, heart, and being Latina:Housing and intimate relationship power among low-income Mexican mothers (In preparation)." Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.
Garrett-Peters, R, and Burton, L. "Tenuous ties: The nature and costs of kin support among low-income rural African American mothers (In preparation)." Women, Gender, and Families of Color.