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

Selected Grants

Behavioral and Physiology in Aging awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2015 to 2020

Doctoral Dissertation Research: Unpacking Inequality in the Federal and Faith-Based Healthcare Safety Net awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2018

John Wesley Fellowship awarded by A Foundation for Theological Education (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2018

Longevity and Stress in African American Families awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2016

Behavior And Physiology In Aging awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1999 to 2015

Doctoral Dissertation Research: Betting on Black and White: Race and Gender Stereotypes in the Medicalization of Problem awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2014

Unpacking Low-Income Mothers Intimate Unions: An Ethnographic Analysis awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2014

Doctoral Dissertation Research: Bringing the War Home: Racial and Gender Differences in Patterns of Post-Conflict awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2013

Drug Policy, Incarceration, Community Re-entry, and Race Disparities in HIV/AIDS awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2009 to 2010

Family Resource Allocation in Urban and Rural Communities awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2008

Burton, L. M., et al., editors. Communities, neighborhood, and health: Expanding the boundaries of place. Springer, 2011.

Burton, L. M., et al. Families, youth, and childrens well being. American Sociological Association, 1998.

Schaie, W. K., et al., editors. Intergenerational issues in aging. Springer, 1995.

Burton, L. M., editor. A new look at families and aging. Baywood Publishing, 1993.

Brady, D., and L. M. Burton, editors. Oxford handbook of the social science of poverty. Oxford University Press.

Burton, L. “Review of Family and individual development by J.A. Meacham.” Contemporary Sociology, vol. 16, no. 1, American Sociological Association, Jan. 1987.

Burton, L. “Grandparents/grandchildren: The vital connection.” International Journal of Gerontology, Elsevier, Jan. 1986.

Baker, R. S., and L. M. Burton. “Between a rock and a hard place: Socioeconomic (im)mobility among low-income mothers of children with disabilities.” Advances in Gender Research, vol. 25, 2018, pp. 57–72. Scopus, doi:10.1108/S1529-212620180000025004. Full Text

Medwinter, S. D., and L. M. Burton. “Negotiating gender and power: How some poor mothers employ economic survival strategies after welfare reform.” Advances in Gender Research, vol. 25, 2018, pp. 107–24. Scopus, doi:10.1108/S1529-212620180000025007. Full Text

Burton, L., et al. “Childhood adultification and the paradox of parenting: Perspectives on African American boys in economically disadvantaged families.” Family Problems: Stress, Risk, and Resilience, edited by J. Arditti, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2015.

Burton, L. M., and C. B. Stack. ““Breakfast at Elmo’s”: Adolescent boys and disruptive politics in the kinscripts narrative.” Open to Disruption: Time and Craft in the Practice of Slow Sociology, 2014, pp. 174–91.

Bryant, C. M., et al. “The changing social context of relationships.” Close Relationships: Functions, Forms, and Processes, 2013, pp. 25–47. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9780203782972. Full Text

Burton, L. M., et al. “Grandmothers’ differential involvment with grandchildren in rural multi-partnered fertility family structures.” From Generation to Generation: Continuity and Discontinuity in Aging Families., edited by M. Silverstein and R. Giarrusso, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

Burton, L. M., et al. “Morality, identity, and mental health in rural ghettos.” Communities,Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of  Place, edited by L. M. Burton et al., Springer, 2011.

Burton, L. M. G. .. P., et al. “More than good quotations: How ethnography informs knowledge on adolescent development and context.” Handbook of Adolescent Psychology: Vol. 1, edited by R. M. Lerner and L. Steinberg, John Wiley & Sons, 2009.

Burton, L. M. “Uncovering hidden facts that matter in interpreting individuals’ behaviors: An ethnographic lens.” Families as They Really Are, edited by B. J. Risman, Norton Publishers, 2009.

Burton, L. M., et al. “Longitudinal ethnography: Uncovering domestic abuse in low-income women’s lives.” The Craft of Life Course Studies, edited by G. Elder and J. Z. Giele, Guilford Press, 2009.


Zvara, Bharathi J., et al. “Mother-child role confusion, child adjustment problems, and the moderating roles of child temperament and sex..” Developmental Psychology, vol. 54, no. 10, Oct. 2018, pp. 1891–903. Epmc, doi:10.1037/dev0000556. Full Text

Berry, Daniel, et al. “Otitis media and respiratory sinus arrhythmia across infancy and early childhood: Polyvagal processes?.” Developmental Psychology, vol. 54, no. 9, Sept. 2018, pp. 1709–22. Epmc, doi:10.1037/dev0000488. Full Text

Willoughby, Michael T., et al. “Developmental Delays in Executive Function from 3 to 5 Years of Age Predict Kindergarten Academic Readiness..” Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol. 50, no. 4, July 2017, pp. 359–72. Epmc, doi:10.1177/0022219415619754. Full Text

Wang, F., et al. “Children’s task engagement during challenging puzzle tasks.” Merrill Palmer Quarterly, vol. 63, no. 4, Jan. 2017, pp. 425–57. Scopus, doi:10.13110/merrpalmquar1982.63.4.0425. Full Text

Kuhn, Laura J., et al. “The contribution of children's time-specific and longitudinal expressive language skills on developmental trajectories of executive function..” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 148, Aug. 2016, pp. 20–34. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2016.03.008. Full Text

Berry, D., et al. “Child Care and Cortisol Across Infancy and Toddlerhood: Poverty, Peers, and Developmental Timing.” Family Relations, vol. 65, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 51–72. Scopus, doi:10.1111/fare.12184. Full Text

Bair-Merritt, Megan H., et al. “Maternal intimate partner violence exposure, child cortisol reactivity and child asthma..” Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 48, Oct. 2015, pp. 50–57. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.11.003. Full Text

Garrett-Peters, Raymond, and Linda M. Burton. “Reframing Marriage and Marital Delay Among Low-Income Mothers: An Interactionist Perspective.” Journal of Family Theory & Review, vol. 7, no. 3, Wiley, Sept. 2015, pp. 242–64. Crossref, doi:10.1111/jftr.12089. Full Text

Blair, Clancy, et al. “Emotional reactivity and parenting sensitivity interact to predict cortisol output in toddlers..” Developmental Psychology, vol. 51, no. 9, Sept. 2015, pp. 1271–77. Epmc, doi:10.1037/dev0000031. Full Text

Zvara, B. J., et al. “The Interdependence of Adult Relationship Quality and Parenting Behaviours among African American and European Couples in Rural, Low-Income Communities.” Infant and Child Development, vol. 24, no. 3, May 2015, pp. 343–63. Scopus, doi:10.1002/icd.1919. Full Text


Burton, L. M., et al. “Inequality, poverty, and health in the new rural America: Towards an emergent research agenda.” American Behavioral Scientist, 2012.