Karen Melton, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Professor of Child and Family Studies in Baylor University's Robbins College of Health and Human Services. Her research is focused on fostering positive family leisure experiences in order to enhance child development and family relations. The simple prevention of adverse experiences cannot itself foster normal child development nor family relationships. Thus, her research examines methods for promoting nurturing, supportive relationships through safe, stable environments.
Dr. Melton serves as director of the H.O.P.E. Research Lab and the Baylor-Compassion Initiative.
Areas of Expertise (14)
Positive Youth Development
Family Activities—rituals, routines, recreation, and religion
Family Life Education
Texas A&M University: Ph.D.
Texas A&M University: M.S.
University of South Alabama: B.S.
Media Appearances (8)
2020’s States with the Most Underprivileged Children
Karen Melton, Ph.D., associate professor of child and family studies and director of Baylor Compassion Initiative, shares the most efficient and effective programs for equalizing opportunity for underprivileged and vulnerable children.
Board Games for Couples That'll Keep Things Interesting While You Stay Indoors
The Zoe Report online
This article about recreational activities for couples cites a study by Baylor child and family studies professor Karen Melton, Ph.D., who found that oxytocin – the “hug hormone” – was released in both men and women when they played board games or painted together in an art class.
Family Quality Time During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Baylor Media and Public Relations online
With many schools closed as a measure against the spread of coronavirus, and many parents working remotely, families can incorporate a variety of activities — including educational ones — to keep kids engaged and ready to continue learning when they return to school, say family experts at Baylor University. “Life will look a little different over the next few weeks” amid the social distancing recommend by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Karen K. Melton, Ph.D., assistant professor of child and family studies in Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences. “For the next few weeks, we are going to get to spend extra quality time with our loved ones at home, likely resulting in more laughs and tears. “A sense of routine can help us stay calm and keep moving forward,” she said. “As we all lean into the changes that surround us, we offer three S’s for being intentional while kids are home: schedules, screen time and social connectedness.”
More than 300 Children Have Found ‘Forever Families’ During Baylor Law School’s Adoption Days
Baylor Media and Public Relations online
Karen Melton, Ph.D., assistant professor of child and family studies at Baylor University, was among the parents welcoming a child into their family. Melton said she had known for a long time that adoption was going to be part of her story as she felt it was part of her Christian calling. And when she met her husband, he also felt called by the Lord to adopt. They both knew that was how they would grow their family. “We knew that there was a need for children to have forever homes,” Melton said. “We knew that we were able to provide a stable home for a child where they could thrive and have the opportunity to grow up and become a young adult who is able to do well.”
Couples creating art or playing board games release ‘love hormone’
Health Medicine Network online
“We were expecting the opposite — that couples playing the board games would interact more because they were communicating about the games and strategies, or because they were competing, and with more interaction, they would release more oxytocin,” which is associated with bonding and family cohesiveness, said Karen Melton, Ph.D., assistant professor of child and family studies in Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences. [...]
Researchers find how to add more "love hormone" to your relationships
Big Think online
The study's author Karen Melton, assistant professor of child and family studies at Baylor University, said the researchers were expecting an opposite result — they thought that couples engaged in board game play would have more interaction and release more oxytocin, because of having to communicate about strategy or due to competition. [...]
Best & Worst Places to Raise a Family
Study Finds online
“We were expecting the opposite — that couples playing the board games would interact more because they were communicating about the games and strategies, or because they were competing, and with more interaction, they would release more oxytocin,” says Dr. Karen Melton, assistant professor of child and family studies at Baylor, in a university release. [...]
Home is where the heart is: Families who spend quality time at home are happier, says study
Natural News online
A study led by Baylor family and consumer scientist Karen Melton, Ph.D., found that while family fun often is associated with new and exciting activities, family leisure spent at home in familiar pastimes may be a more effective route to happiness.
Melton, K. K., Larson, M., & Boccia, M.
Objective: To evaluate the release of oxytocin as a biomarker of romantic‐partner attachment during couple recreation. Background: To date, no studies have examined the impact of distinct types of recreation activities on the release of oxytocin. The Ecology for Family Experience framework, which highlights the divergent experience of family members, guided the experimental design. Method: A total of 20 cohabitating or married couples were randomly assigned to one of the following two experimental groups: board games or art class. Urinary oxytocin was measured before and after the recreational activity. Analysis of covariance was used to determine group differences in oxytocin levels. Results All groups released oxytocin during couple activities. Men in the art class demonstrated oxytocin response twice the level than other groups. Couples in the art class reported more partner touching than couples playing board games. A significant environmental impact was also identified. Conclusion: Oxytocin is released during couple recreational activities. Some types of activities may contribute to higher release of oxytocin than others. Key factors may include touch, novelty, and sex. Implications: Findings support the Ecology of Family Experience framework as a useful tool in examining factors of divergent and convergent couple experiences. Researchers should further explore the role of touch and environment in the release of oxytocin during couple activities.
Melton, K. K. & McAninch, N.
Citation: Melton, K. K. & McAninch, N. (2018). From healthy to thriving: Conceptualization of purposive resource management of intentional families. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 110(2), 14-36. doi:10.14307/JFCS110.2.14
Melton, K. K., Townsend J. N., Hodge, C. J.
This article provides a theoretical model that positions family leisure experiences as a mechanism for positive family outcomes and resilience in military families. The article integrates the Creation of Family Experiences (CFE) framework with literature on military families, family leisure, and structured experiences. The CFE framework is a conceptual model that provides a lens for examining the context of family activities in order to better identify benefits for human development and family relations. When contextualized within military settings, the CFE can be used to understand and systematically optimize military family leisure experiences. It is critical to consider the experiences of military families (e.g., relocation, deployment, reunion) and how those experiences interact with family leisure experiences to produce resilient families. Future research and practice should consider this application of the CFE framework when seeking to explain, support, and program recreation‐based activities for military families.
Melton, K. K. & Ellis, G.
This research note describes an alternative scaling procedure for the Family Leisure Activity Profile (FLAP; Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001). The alternative scaling procedure preserves the ratio-level character of responses to FLAP questionnaire items, and it produces an estimate of prevalence of participation with interpretable units of time (hours). In contrast, the traditional FLAP scoring approach produces scores on an arbitrary scale, and these scores can be distorted indicators of involvement in core and balance activities. The increased precision and greater variation produced by the alternative scoring procedure may be a key to more consistent findings regarding family leisure in future studies.
Melton, K. K.
This article proposes the Family Activity Model (FAM) that integrates the previous work of Orthner's theoretical constructs of joint and parallel activities with Zabriskie and McCormick's constructs of core and balance experiences. FAM includes two dimensions of family experiences: activity environment and family interaction. Activity environment refers to the degree of novelty in the environment, while family interaction refers to the degree of social interaction among family members. These dimensions include objective and subjective elements of experiences. As a result of these orthogonal dimensions, four categories were developed providing a more nuanced understanding of family experiences: core-joint, core-parallel, balance-joint, and balance-parallel. The broader implications of using the FAM are discussed for researchers and practitioners.