March 2024 Spotlight – Effy Zhiyuan Yu, PhD

  • 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 to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in your area? 

My research focuses on the intergenerational transmission of adversity and resilience and related health impact among families of young children, with the goal of improving health outcomes and equities among families and young children exposed to high levels of adversity.

I started my doctoral research with an understanding of how Chinese immigrant mothers living in low-income settings experience and respond to postpartum distress in the US. This provided insights into how hardships created by immigration and poverty affect mothers’ mental health, which shapes their ability to provide sensitive parenting essential for healthy child development. This also motivated me to gain more knowledge in interventions that strengthen parenting and parents’ psycho-social well-being, particularly for families living in low-resourced communities.  During my postdoctoral training with Dr. Deborah Gross, I directed a research project evaluating a multi-site, evidence-based parenting program called Chicago Parent Program among low-income parents exposed to childhood trauma and adversity. I was also a co-PI on an international collaborative research project examining the impact of adverse and positive childhood experiences (ACEs and PCEs) on mental health and overall wellbeing, as indicated by flourishing in a large sample (>10,000) of Chinese young adults.

  • 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. 

Recognizing that early adversity can be biologically embedded and transmitted intergenerationally, I am currently the PI for an NICHD-funded K99/R00 study to elucidate the relationships among mothers’ ACEs and PCEs, maternal sensitivity, and immune regulation in infants (K99 phase, 6 months) and toddlers (R00 phase, 12, 24, 36 months) of mothers who are living with opioid dependence, a high-risk group that often encounters a host of adversities. This K99/R00 study builds on and extends a NICHD-funded randomized clinical trial (R01HD098525) that tests the efficacy of a parenting intervention, the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC), among mothers with opioid dependence and infants with perinatal opioid exposure. The K99 phase (2022-2024) data collection is ongoing.

I am also currently supporting a mentee’s qualitative study to understand how different generations of Asian Americans experience childhood and racialized trauma and how such exposure to trauma influences their parent-child relationships. Our hope is to use knowledge gained from this work to support developing or adapting parenting interventions for Asian Americans to strengthen their parenting and to interrupt the cycle of intergenerational trauma.

  • Your reflections on your interactions with the Asian Caucus would be highly appreciated. Please feel free to share your thoughts, whether it’s a simple message for the Caucus community or more.

This year marked my first attendance at the SRCD conference, and the Asian Caucus has left a lasting impression on me. Prior to the conference, someone from the group reached out and provided recommendations on local Asian food. The ensuing conversation created a sense of community and belonging that I had not experienced at any other conference or society.

During the conference, I was particularly inspired and encouraged by the penal discussion on embracing leadership roles. The panelists’ willingness to be vulnerable and share their struggles and lessons learned deeply touched me. I felt seen during this session and left with a sense of pride in our Asian traits and strengths, such as the collectivist mindset.

  • Any upcoming talks or presentations we should know about?

I submitted several abstracts to a few conferences on the topics of Asian perinatal women’s experiences (MNRS), parenting intervention for disrupting the intergenerational transmission of ACEs and promoting resilience in low-income settings (SPR and STTI)), and adverse and positive childhood experiences, emotional regulations, and flourishing among Chinese young adults (APS).

  • What is your preferred contact email?

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