Linda Burton

Dean of Social Sciences, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and Center for Child and Family Policy Faculty Fellow

Linda M. Burton was appointed dean of social sciences effective July 2014. She came to Duke in 2006 from Penn State where she was professor of human development and family studies and sociology and directed a research center on family diversity and context. Burton was named a James B. Duke Professor in 2007. She was previously director of the undergraduate honors program and director of undergraduate studies in the Sociology Department. Burton has more than a decade of administrative experience from leading two National Institute of Mental Health consortia and postdoctoral training programs and a lengthy history of leading large-scale federally- and private foundation-funded ethnographic and mixed methods studies of poverty, family processes, and human development across the life course. Her work has been nationally recognized, most recently with a Distinguished Career Award from the American Sociological Association, the inaugural Wiley Alexis Walker Award for Outstanding Research in Family Science, and the Family Research Consortium IV Legacy Award.

Her methodological approach to exploring these issues is comparative, longitudinal, and multi-method. The comparative dimension of her 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. Burton employs longitudinal designs in her 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.

Burton serves on several editorial boards and was recently a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Child Maltreatment Research, Policy, and Practice for the Next Decade, Committee on the Science of Research on Families for the Institute of Medicine, the advisory board of the National Center for Marriage and Family Research, the board of directors for the Family Process Institute, and the board of directors for the Council on Contemporary Families. She has also completed terms as a member of the National Research Council’s Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Children, Youth, and Families, and several National Institutes of Health study sections. Burton holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in gerontology. She is a Gerontological Society of America fellow and an elected member of the Sociological Research Association.

Research Interests:

  • Family Structure
  • Poverty and Inequality
  • Child Development


  • Ph.D. University of Southern California - 1985
  • M.S. University of Southern California - 1982
  • MA Sociology, University of Southern California - 1982
  • B.S. University of Southern California - 1978

Recent Publications (More Publications)

  • Brady, D. & Burton, L.M. (Eds.) (2013) The Oxford handbook of the social science of poverty
  • W. Welsh & Burton, L.M. (2016) Home, heart, and being Latina: Housing and intimate relationship power among low-income Mexican mothers Sociology of Race and Ethnicity,
  • R. Garrett-Peters & L.M. Burton (2015) Reframing marriage and marital delay among low-income mothers: An interactionist perspective Journal of Family Theory and Review, 242-264,
  • Burton, LM (2014) Seeking Romance in the Crosshairs of Multiple-Partner Fertility: Ethnographic Insights on Low-Income Urban and Rural Mothers Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 654, 185-212, [doi]
  • Burton, LM; Stack, CB (2014) “Breakfast at Elmo’s”: Adolescent boys and disruptive politics in the kinscripts narrative