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Teaching Adolesence

Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Mengya Xia

June 2018

Mengya Xia is a doctoral candidate in Human Development and Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University under the supervision of Dr. Gregory M. Fosco. She is passionate about research that uses innovative methods, such as person-centered approach and dynamic system modeling, to study how the transactional dynamic processes between adolescents and their developmental context (especially family) influence adolescent well-being, interpersonal relationships, and positive development. She has investigated these transactional dynamic processes in multiple levels: 1) a dyadic level in family (i.e. parent-adolescent relationships and interparental relationships), 2) a triadic level in family (i.e. mother-father-adolescent relationships), and 3) the level of whole family and beyond (e.g., family climate and reciprocal influence of family and school).

As an undergraduate student at Wuhan University, her academic background in both psychology and computer science inspired her integrative thinking between human development and dynamic system modeling. Her trajectory as a researcher began as an undergraduate research assistant on projects of adolescent autonomy and belongingness in family and school contexts. She further pursued her Master’s degree and worked on these projects in the same lab at Wuhan University. At the same time, she began volunteering to provide counseling services on mental health for primary, middle, and college students. During these research and counseling experiences, she realized the important implications of family and other developmental contexts on adolescent well-being, which resulted in her pursing a Ph.D in Human Development and Family Studies.

At the Pennsylvania State University, Mengya’s method coursework and training equipped her to use innovative methodology to answer nuanced questions on family systems dynamics and adolescent development. For example, she has used multi-level modeling in ecological momentary assessments (EMA) data to examine how daily parent-adolescent support and conflict, and their general relationship closeness are associated with adolescent feeling love by their parents. She has also used autoregressive models to test the transactional processes between adolescent individual factors and their developmental contexts (family and school) on their academic success and romantic relationship outcomes in longitudinal data. While working with Dr. Sy-Miin Chow—an expert in dynamic system modeling—she identified husbands’ and wives’ self- and co-regulatory dynamics in couple interaction process by using a coupled oscillators model. She has also received training in advanced Latent Class/Profile Analysis (LCA/LPA) from Dr. Bethany C. Bray as a Prevention and Methodology Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the Prevention Research and Methodology Center, and used this person-centered technique to investigate the associations between profiles of mother-father-adolescent triadic relationship patterns and different adolescent outcomes, such as friendships and substance use initiation.

Mengya is currently working on the Family Life Optimizing Well-Being (FLOW) Study, which aims to 1) understand how family relationships and processes predict adolescent long-term well-being, adaption, and success in life, and 2) understand how day-to-day experiences shape adolescent daily well-being and self-regulatory skills that have a lasting impact on adolescent development. After working on data collection, management, and cleaning with her mentor and lab mates, Mengya is now using the daily dairy and 6-month follow up data in this study for her dissertation. Her dissertation project examines the associations between mother-father-adolescent (MFA) triadic relationship dynamics and adolescent ill-being and positive well-being, which contains three main goals: 1) to identify MFA triadic relationship patterns during daily interactions, 2) to identify configurations of MFA triadic relationship dynamics, and 3) to investigate the association between different configurations of MFA triadic relationship dynamics and adolescent depression, anxiety, substance misuse, positive affect, life satisfaction, and a sense of purpose in life. Mengya believes that it is essential to understand adolescent development in their developmental contexts from a dynamic transactional perspective. She looks forward to contributing to research on dynamic processes in family systems that facilitate adolescent positive well-being, healthy interpersonal relationships, and positive development in a person-specific approach and mentoring students who are interested in adolescent positive well-being and development.

University page:


Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., Lippold, M. A., & Feinberg, M. E. (2018, online first). A Developmental Perspective on Young Adult Romantic Relationships: Examining Family and Individual Factors in Adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Feinberg, M. E., Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., & Chow, S. (2017). Dynamical Systems Modeling of Couple Interaction: A New Method for Assessing Intervention Impact Across the Transition to Parenthood. Prevention Science, 1-12.

Fosco, G. M., Van Ryzin, M., Xia, M., & Feinberg, M. E. (2016). Trajectories of Adolescent Hostile-Aggressive Behavior and Family Climate: Longitudinal Implications for Young Adult Romantic Relationship Competence. Developmental Psychology, 52(7), 1139-1150.

Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., & Feinberg, M. E. (2016). Examining Reciprocal Influences Among Family Climate, School Attachment, and Academic Self-Regulation: Implications for School Success. Journal of Family Psychology, 30, 442-452.

Kaufman, E., Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., Yaptangco, M., Skidmore, C. R. & Cowell, S. E. (2016). The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale Short Form (DERS-SF): Validation and Replication in Adolescent and Adult Samples. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 38, 443-455.

Fosco, G. M., Xia, M., Lynn, M. G., & Grych, J. H. (2016). Triangulation and Parent-Adolescent Relationships: Implications for Adolescent Dating Competence and Abuse. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 26(3), 524-537.

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