Dr. Marsha Walton: Children's Personal Narratives

Dr. Walton’s ongoing research involves listening to people making sense of their experiences at two points in the life cycle: middle childhood, and late adolescence/early adulthood. The two interests are unified by a narrative approach, committed to an exploration of the idea that we make our lives meaningful and create our very selves as we share stories about what has happened.

Rhodes Child Development Research Team  

Ever since her dissertation research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Walton has been intrigued by how children make sense of their social worlds. How do they understand friendship and interpersonal conflict and how is this related to their moral and social development? How do they come to take authorship of their own experiences, and how does this relate to their ability to resolve peer conflict and to form satisfying relationships?
 
Since 1980, over 50 undergraduate student collaborators have presented papers and co-authored articles reporting these studies. A book describing the past 20 years of our efforts to understand children’s stories about their own conflicts, co-authored with Alice Davidson ‘02, will come out in the winter of 2017. 

         Walton, M. D., & Davidson, A. J. (2017). Children’s conflict narratives: The social, emotional, and moral significance of story sharing. New York: Routeledge.

Community Narratives Research Team 

In 2013, Dr. Walton began collaborating with community psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, beginning a longitudinal examination of Rhodes’ Bonner Scholars program. Bonner scholars enter Rhodes with a commitment to give 10 hours a week to community service, and with supports for the development of civic leadership.  They have been telling us their stories about their variety of experiences with community engagement in the city of Memphis. Rhodes Bonner Director, Shannon Hoffman, a Bonner Advisory Team, and a group of student researchers have joined our efforts to understand the role that participation in community organizations plays in how students see themselves and in how their experiences influence the Bonner program and the Rhodes community.

Over the past 4 years, 6 undergraduate researchers have presented papers or co-authored articles reporting initial findings of this research. Most recently, this work was included in a special issue of Diversity and Democracy.

          Hoffman, S., Main, N., Manoogian, A., Plata, D., Thomas, E., & Walton, M. D. (2016). The Community Narrative Research Project: Harnessing the power of
reflection for student learning and structural change. Diversity and Democracy.