New Lab Probes Children’s Emotions

Sep 15 2017
Written by NYU Shanghai

Alarmed by the rise of pressure-induced psychological issues in modern societies, the newly-established NYU Shanghai Affect Dynamics in Relationships Lab (ADR Lab) has been orchestrating research that probes into various types of social interactions, especially with children and adolescents.

Following two years of preparation, ADR lab is formally founded in June, 2017. The lab, affiliated with NYU-ECNU Institute for Social Development at NYU Shanghai, has been funded by NYU Shanghai seed grant, NYU University Research Challenge Fund, and Pujiang Talents Program, and very recently has received funds from NGO Save the Children.

“The primary goal of our research is to understand how emotions are expressed and regulated in different relationships and contribute to well-being and how family, schools, community, and cultural contexts shape the development of social and emotional skills” said Lab Director Cui Lixian, Assistant Professor of Psychology at NYU Shanghai.

The research team consists mainly of NYU Shanghai undergraduate students from various areas of social sciences and master students of ECNU. The lab also hosts many visiting scholars and students from many other universities. Wei Luhao ‘18, a humanities major, joined the lab as a research assistant in March out of growing academic interest in psychology, and grew deeply involved in the lab’s daily administrative works, helping design experiments, collecting and analyzing data.

“Working in the lab propels me to learn new knowledge and technology constantly. It is  here that I start to approach the standard scientific research and develop the sense of research responsibilities that is usually assigned to graduate students,” Wei said.



Taking advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities and programs for collecting and analyzing data, the ADR Lab is working on various cross-sectional and longitudinal datasets from both the United States and China, examining social and emotional processes from behavioral, physiological, and psychological perspectives. The lab is particularly focusing on low-income ethnic minority families in the US and population of disadvantaged backgrounds such as migrant families and left-behind children in China.

Collaborating with researchers from NYU Steinhardt School, University of Pennsylvania, and Southeast University in Nanjing, the ADR Lab is currently working on a 10-year longitudinal  Nanjing MetroBaby Project, which had tracked over 400 infants since 2006 to understand the socialization processes and development of the children.

“China is undergoing dramatic socioeconomic transition,” Professor Cui said. “Our lab is taking the lead of exploring relations between culture values and Chinese parenting, particularly focusing on the impacts of contextual changes on  parents’ beliefs and practices, and the associations between socialization processes and child emotional development.”

In addition to the Nanjing project, the ADR Lab is also implementing research studies on social exclusion and adjustment, stress-coping and well-being and more.

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