October 2022 Spotlight – Xuan Li, PhD

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Xuan Li (xuanli@nyu.edu) as our member in the spotlight. Xuan Li is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at NYU Shanghai. She is also an affiliated member of the NYU-ECNU Institute for Social Development at NYU Shanghai and the Department of Applied Psychology at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

  • Can you write a couple of sentences on some aspect of your career development: feel free to pick one or any other related question among these: a) what drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children, and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips for someone starting out in the field who is doing work in your area? 
  1. Motivation: My research examines the social, cultural, and historical contexts of child development and family life, with particular attention to the role of the father in Chinese families. My work on (immigrant) Asian children, youth, and families emerges from my own upbringing (Nanjing, China, then studying in Beijing and working in Shanghai), which is quite different from the “standard” W.E.I.R.D childhood, adolescence, and family life typically portrayed in psychology textbooks and literature. I am intrigued by such differences and have been trying to use a variety of methods to investigate and make sense of the multiple systems of child development in Asian contexts.
  2. Important mentors: I had the great fortune to have many fantastic mentors throughout my academic development who are not only exemplary scholars themselves but also unwavering supporters of my research explorations. To name just a few, my graduate supervisor and a pioneer of fathering research, Prof. Michael E. Lamb, has been my long-time role model as an excellent scholar, a wise mentor, an involved parent (who practices what he preaches!), and an active public intellectual. Over the years,  I also learned a great deal from Professors Ronald Rohner, Sabine Walper, Sumie Okazaki, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Niobe Way, Xinyin Chen, and Pekka Santtila, among many others – not only on how to conduct high-quality research but also on how to conduct oneself in a professional and compassionate manner.
  3. Advice/Tips: Growing up as an only child, I never knew what it feels like to have siblings – but  I have been lucky to have many “academic siblings” in the similar career stage with shared research interests (some met at SRCD meetings!) who have been a major source of support, happiness, and inspiration for my work and life. Therefore, I would recommend searching for your own “sibship” in the field!
  • A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other [understudied?] populations; d) practice or policy relevance. 

Over the years, I have studied primarily Chinese fathers in Chinese societies, but I noticed that there has been a continuing lack of scholarly attention to immigrant Chinese fathers even when studies on immigrant Chinese mothers have taken off. Together with my collaborators, Prof. Susan Chuang, Dr. Yang Hu, and Dr. Ching-Yu Huang, I reviewed existing studies on Chinese fathers and speculated on possible reasons behind such paucity in our chapter “Critically assessing the methodological challenges of exploring Chinese immigrant fathers.” Drawing on literature from psychology, sociology, and migration studies and using an intersectional lens, we argued that stereotypical assumptions about Chinese men, such as seeing them as well-integrated immigrants who successfully fulfill essential paternal responsibilities of co-residence and provision, may have contributed to the neglect of immigrant Chinese fathers. We call for greater inclusion of immigrant Chinese fathers, which would not only add to our understanding of immigrant Chinese children and families but would help us reflect on the ethnocentric assumptions in the fatherhood scholarship.

  • If you have any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus, that would be great!  These can be just for the Caucus leadership to know, and/or a message to the Caucus community. 

I have always enjoyed and appreciated the work of the Asian caucus since I joined SRCD as a graduate student. It is exciting to see how the Caucus has grown over the years as a hub of scholars dedicated to Asian and Asian American communities.  In addition to in-person activities at SRCD, I also attend to the mailing list information, although the Spotlight series, which presents so many interesting life stories of like-minded scholars, is clearly my favorite!

  • Any upcoming talks or presentations we should know about?

In Fall 2022, my collaborators and I will be presenting at two exciting conferences: At the 9th Conference of International Academy of Family Psychology organized by the German Youth Institute, I will talk about perceived paternal and maternal roles in child development in Chinese families; at the Men and Families conference 2022 held at the University of Guelph, I will share preliminary data on Chinese fathers’ work-family conflict. Earlier this year, I also had the honor to speak alongside other fatherhood researchers at the Preconference of the Special Interest Research Group on Father-Child Attachment and Relationships (SIRG-FCAR) of the Society for Emotions and Attachment Studies (SEAS).

  • What is your preferred contact email?


  • A weblink you prefer to share?

Institutional webpage: https://shanghai.nyu.edu/academics/faculty/directory/xuan-li

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