Dr. Marsha Walton: Narrative Development

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, was published in 2017. Dr. Walton is currently collaborating with Dr. Kiren Khan to study narratives of preschoolers. 

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

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, Tiffany Ford, 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 7 years, 12 undergraduate researchers have presented papers or co-authored articles reporting initial findings of this research. Recently, our research process has been reported in the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice and preliminary findings are published in the Journal of Adolescent Research.

Thomas, R. E., Walton, M. D., *Manoogian, A., *Baker-Olson, A., *Branch, B., *Malpert, A.,
*Henderson, K. & *Parker, R. (2019). Undergraduate community psychology research practice:
The story of the Community Narrative Research Project at Rhodes College. Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice, 10(1), 1-22.

Thomas, R. E., Walton, M. D., *Baker-Olson, A., *Blaber, I., *Parker, R., & *Becton, M. (2020).
Collaborative agency in civic and community engagement: Narratives of college students working toward generative partnerships. Journal of Adolescent Research.