September 2020 Spotlight, Qiong (Joanna) Wu, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Qiong (Joanna) Wu ( as our member in the spotlight. Qiong is currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. Her research interests focus on emotional processes within the family and their role in the intergenerational transmission of psychopathologies from parents to children. More specifically, she has primarily invested her research efforts in examining how maternal mental health problems (depression, anxiety, and substance use) are associated with adjustment issues in children through mother-child emotional dynamics. As an applied researcher and clinician, Qiong is also interested in examining the efficacy of family therapy interventions aimed at improving parent-child emotional interactions.

1)What drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?

My research interests, centering on the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology from mothers to their young children, started when I was in college. I was deeply touched by attachment theory which describes the long-lasting effects that early mother-child bonds may have on children. Soon after I entered the graduate program at the Ohio State University, I became familiar with the family systems theory, which emphasizes bidirectional, reciprocal processes of familial relationships as well as nonlinear causality of thinking. Due to my training as a marriage and family therapist, I adopt a systemic approach to better understand the associations between parenting and children’s development, both in my research and in my clinical practice. I also had the opportunities to work with great mentors, Dr. Xin Feng and Dr. Natasha Slesnick, integrating both basic and applied research on how maternal psychopathology negatively affects children and how intervention efforts can modify this influence.

My advice for someone who is just beginning their work in this field is to be curious about what you study and be persistent in pursuing the work you do.

2) A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it. 

I would like to share one of my recent works published in the Journal of Family Psychology, coauthored with Dr. Natasha Slesnick. This study used data from randomized controlled trials and tested prospective associations among maternal substance use, depressive symptoms, and children’s behavioral problems. Mothers with a substance use disorder were randomly assigned to a family therapy condition (Ecologically-Based Family Therapy), where they attended the therapy sessions with their children, or the individual treatment condition where they were in the sessions alone. We found that in the family systems therapy condition, reciprocal relationships between maternal substance use and child behavioral problems, and between maternal substance use and maternal depressive symptoms, were interrupted, compared to the individual treatment condition. The findings are exciting as they provide evidence for the effectiveness of family systems therapy in interrupting the dysfunctional family dynamics that contribute to maternal substance use behaviors and child behavioral problems. By considering problems in families as relational rather than as a result of individual deficiencies, and by targeting family interactions that maintain individual symptoms, the entire family system can then develop healthier interactions. With this change, individual problem behaviors can remit.

3) Any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus?

I am grateful that the Asian Caucus has played an important role in fostering connections and enhancing research and career development among AC members. Thus, I am serving on the AC mentorship subcommittee this year to enhance these professional connections. I would like to see AC’s continued growth in cultivating supportive research and professional networks and would like to be a part of it.

4)  A preferred weblink

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