I am Karen Melton an associate professor of Child & Family Studies in Human Sciences & Design, in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences at Baylor University. I have been at Baylor since 2014. This blog space is used to share scholarly works related to my research on shared activities.

Research Agenda: As a scholar, my long-term goal is to contribute to the literature on the healthy development of adolescents through the maintenance of healthy families. Currently, my research agenda focuses on social connectedness through shared activities. Social connection is driven by shared activities, and shared activities center on distinct activity properties. However, most prior work has examined the association between shared activities and well-being without acknowledging that dimensions of activities properties can vary—e.g., high/low level of social interaction and high/low of environmental incongruity (i.e.., novelty).  My conceptual (Melton, 2017; Melton, Hodge, Duerden, 2020) and empirical work (Melton, 2019) indicate that both environmental factors and interpersonal factors influence the level of connection experienced during episodes of shared activities. My current scholarship aims to identify the specific mechanisms of shared activities that lead to the growth or maintenance of family relationships.

Public Health Relevance: Epidemiological research suggests that loneliness is a robust predictor of morbidity and mortality. Rates of loneliness among adolescents have risen sharply over the last decade. Thus, the prevention of loneliness through social connection has been named a public health priority. Social connection is driven by participation in shared activities; and our prior research has found that specific activity properties predict different levels of social connection among different groups.

My areas of expertise include the intersection of:

    • Family Time
    • Family Leisure
    • Travel/Vacations
    • Experience Design
    • Adolescent Development/PYD
    • Family Relations & Well-Being
    • Family Life Education
    • Resource Management
    • Program Design, Evaluation & Effectiveness

Family Life Education: Additionally, I have a special interest in how families cultivate an intentional family identity through the management of their resources (i.e., family time, finances).  Intentional families are needed as the US and many other developing countries seek to have a pluralistic society. Pluralistic societies have no common cultural script of what a family should look like or act like. This provides families with a lot of freedom in choosing their family identity. With this freedom, comes great responsibility for families. And without these normative cultural scripts, families are then charged with the great task of determining their identities, their goals, and then the activities that are going to best help them achieve those goals. That’s a lot to consider. The research on intentional families examines the lives of intentional families to consider general principles for organizing family life. You can find more information about this work at https://intentional.family/ 




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