PhD Graduate Dr. Xupeng Mao Receives NYU Outstanding Dissertation Awards Honorable Mention

Dr. Xupeng Mao
Dr. Xupeng Mao

Dr. Xupeng Mao, a 2018 graduate of NYU Silver’s PhD Program who is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at East China University of Science and Technology, has been awarded Honorable Mention in NYU’s University-Wide Outstanding Dissertation Awards. Dr. Mao was recognized in the category of Allied Health & Social Services for her dissertation, “The Relationship Between Social Support and Subjective Well-Being Among Older Adults in China.” NYU President Andrew Hamilton announced the award winners at a ceremony before the annual NYU Research Showcase on April 24, 2019.

Dr. Mao’s dissertation used data from two longitudinal national surveys of Chinese residents to examine the relationship between social support and Chinese older adults’ subjective well-being, and to identify the groups most vulnerable to low subjective well-being and the types and sources of social support that may promote the older adults’ subjective well-being.

“Subjective well-being at older ages is important to individuals, their families, and society,” said Dr. Mao. “It dictates how we think, feel, and behave, and helps determine how we handle stress.” She noted that upheavals in Chinese society over the past 40 years, stemming in part from the country’s one-child policy and massive rural-to-urban migration, have both introduced new stressors and changed the types and sources of social support China’s older adults now receive.

Dr. Mao cited a number of important findings that emerged from her dissertation. “First, children’s support (i.e., financially, instrumentally, and emotionally) was important to Chinese older adults’ subjective well-being, particularly those who had relatively disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g., low educational levels) or have their preferred living arrangement. Second, older adults receiving formal financial support (e.g., retirement pension) had the same or even better subjective well-being than their counterparts receiving financial support from their children. Third, although receiving instrumental support from non-child sources was generally associated with lower subjective well-being, receiving instrumental support from a spouse tended to benefit urban Chinese older adults’ subjective well-being. Fourth, being widowed, having poor health, and being functional dependent were negatively associated with Chinese older adults’ subjective well-being. In addition, instrumental support from children and formal financial support may serve as buffers for older adults dealing with these stressors, resulting in better subjective well-being than their counterparts who receive support from other sources or have no support. Last, compared to older adults living with children, rural older adults who live alone were less likely to be satisfied with their lives. “

Professor Wen-Jui Han, the Director the School’s PhD Program and Dr. Mao’s Dissertation Committee Chair, said “I am pleased that Dr. Mao has received this prestigious recognition by our University. She has proven to be a high caliber early career researcher whose dissertation has the potential to shape public policy and social programs in China to enhance the well-being of the country’s older adults and their families. We are very proud of Xupeng and are exciting to see many more contributions she will make to advance our scholarship and our profession.”