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

Communities, neighborhood, and health: Expanding the boundaries of place. Ed. LM Burton, S Kemp, M Leung, S Matthews, and D Takeuchi. New York: Springer, 2011.

Burton, LM, Hernandez, D, and Hofferth, S. Families, youth, and childrens well being. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association, 1998.

Intergenerational issues in aging. Ed. WK Schaie, VL Bengston, and LM Burton. New York: Springer, 1995.

A new look at families and aging. Ed. LM Burton. New York: Baywood Publishing, 1993.

Oxford handbook of the social science of poverty (In preparation). Ed. D Brady and LM Burton. New York: Oxford University Press.

Burton, L. "Review of Family and individual development by J.A. Meacham." Contemporary sociology 16.1 (January 1987).

Burton, L. "Grandparents/grandchildren: The vital connection." International Journal of Gerontology (January 1986).

Burton, L, Winn, DM, Stevenson, H, and McKinney, M. "Childhood adultification and the paradox of parenting: Perspectives on African American boys in economically disadvantaged families." Family problems: Stress, risk, and resilience. Ed. J Arditti. New York: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2015.

"“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. January 1, 2014. 174-191.

"Grandmothers’ differential involvement with grandchildren in rural multiple partner fertility family structures." Kinship and Cohort in an Aging Society: From Generation to Generation. January 1, 2013. 79-103.

Burton, LM, Garrett-Peters, R, and Eason, J. "Morality, identity, and mental health in rural ghettos." Communities,neighborhoods, and health: Expanding the boundaries of place. Ed. LM Burton, S Kemp, L M, S Matthews, and D Takeuchi. New York: Springer, 2011.

"Show me you can be a father": Maternal monitoring and recruitment of fathers for involvement in low-income families." Who's Watching?: Daily Practices of Surveillance among Contemporary Families. December 1, 2009. 192-216.

Burton, LMG-P, Garrett-Peters, R, and Eaton, SC. "More than good quotations: How ethnography informs knowledge on adolescent development and context." Handbook of adolescent psychology: Vol. 1. Ed. RM Lerner and L Steinberg. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.

Burton, LM. "Uncovering hidden facts that matter in interpreting individuals’ behaviors: An ethnographic lens." Families as they really are. Ed. BJ Risman. New York: Norton Publishers, 2009.

Burton, L. "Mothering through recruitment: Kinscription of non-residential fathers and father figures in low-income families." American families: A multicultural reader. Ed. S Coontz. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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.

"Close Relationships.": Routledge. January 26, 2006. Full Text


Zvara, BJ, Macfie, J, Cox, M, Mills-Koonce, R, and Family Life Project Key Investigators, . "Mother-child role confusion, child adjustment problems, and the moderating roles of child temperament and sex." Developmental Psychology 54.10 (October 2018): 1891-1903. Full Text

Berry, D, Vernon-Feagans, L, Mills-Koonce, WR, Blair, C, and Family Life Project Key Investigators, . "Otitis media and respiratory sinus arrhythmia across infancy and early childhood: Polyvagal processes?." Developmental Psychology 54.9 (September 2018): 1709-1722. Full Text

Willoughby, MT, Magnus, B, Vernon-Feagans, L, Blair, CB, and Family Life Project Investigators, . "Developmental Delays in Executive Function from 3 to 5 Years of Age Predict Kindergarten Academic Readiness." Journal of Learning Disabilities 50.4 (July 2017): 359-372. Full Text

Feihong Wang, , James Algina, , Patricia Snyder, , and Martha Cox, . "Children's Task Engagement During Challenging Puzzle Tasks." Merrill Palmer Quarterly 63.4 (2017): 425-425. Full Text

Kuhn, LJ, Willoughby, MT, Vernon-Feagans, L, Blair, CB, and Family Life Project Key Investigators, . "The contribution of children's time-specific and longitudinal expressive language skills on developmental trajectories of executive function." Journal of experimental child psychology 148 (August 2016): 20-34. Full Text

Odom, EC, Garrett-Peters, P, and Vernon-Feagans, L. "Racial Discrimination as a Correlate of African American Mothers’ Emotion Talk to Young Children." Journal of Family Issues 37.7 (May 2016): 970-996. Full Text

Berry, D, Blair, C, and Granger, DA. "Child Care and Cortisol Across Infancy and Toddlerhood: Poverty, Peers, and Developmental Timing." Family Relations 65.1 (February 2016): 51-72. Full Text

Bair-Merritt, MH, Voegtline, K, Ghazarian, SR, Granger, DA, Blair, C, Family Life Project Investigators, , and Johnson, SB. "Maternal intimate partner violence exposure, child cortisol reactivity and child asthma." Child abuse & neglect 48 (October 2015): 50-57. Full Text

Blair, C, Ursache, A, Mills-Koonce, R, Stifter, C, Voegtline, K, Granger, DA, and Family Life Project Investigators, . "Emotional reactivity and parenting sensitivity interact to predict cortisol output in toddlers." Developmental psychology 51.9 (September 2015): 1271-1277. Full Text

Garrett-Peters, R, and Burton, LM. "Reframing Marriage and Marital Delay Among Low-Income Mothers: An Interactionist Perspective." Ed. TL Goodsell and A Zvonkovic. Journal of Family Theory & Review 7.3 (September 2015): 242-264. Full Text


Slattery, E, Skinner, D, Lahicotte, W, Cherlin, A, and Burton, LM. Disability, health coverage, and welfare reform. 2002.

Moffitt, R, Cherlin, AJ, Burton, L, King, M, and Roff, J. The characteristics of families of families remaining on welfare. 2001.

Cherlin, AJ, Burton, L, Francis, J, Henrici, J, Lein, L, Quane, J, and Bogen, K. Sanctions and case closings for noncompliance: Who is affected and why. 2000.

Cherlin, AJ, Winston, P, Angel, RJ, Burton, L, Chase-Lansdale, PL, Moffitt, RA, Wilson, WJ, Quane, J, and Levine-Coley, R. What welfare recipients know about the new rules and what they have to say about them. 2000.

Winston, P, Angel, RJ, Burton, L, Chase-Lansdale, PL, Cherlin, AJ, Moffitt, RA, and Wilson, WJ. Welfare, children, and families: Overview and design. 1999.

Burton, L, Cherlin, AJ, Francis, J, Jarrett, RL, Quane, J, Williams, C, and Stem Cook, MN. What welfare recipients and the fathers of their children are saying about welfare reform. 1998.

Burton, LM. Family structure and nonmarital fertility: Perspectives from ethnographic research. Department of Health and Human Services, 1995.

Burton, LM, Lichter, D, Baker, RS, and Eason, JM. "Inequality, poverty, and health in the new rural America: Towards an emergent research agenda." American Behavioral Scientist (2012).