Lixia Zhang, MSW

Ph.D. Student, Research Assistant, Teaching Assistant
Social Work

Lixia Zhang is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. She will be completing her degree program in May 2019.

Zhang’s research focuses on child maltreatment and other childhood adversities that undermine health and well-being across the life course. Additionally, she is interested in programs and policies that prevent childhood trauma or mitigate its effects, and improve the health and well-being of disadvantaged children and families.

Zhang’s dissertation work is intended to generate new knowledge about the prevalence and consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and to help promote evidence-informed and culturally appropriate prevention and intervention services. She is completing three publication-worthy papers for her formal dissertation. In the first, she used data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study (FFCWS) to explore the bidirectional relationship between ACEs and behavioral problems from early childhood through middle adolescence. For her second paper, she analyzed data from the Wisconsin Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, to assess whether a mother’s exposure to ACEs has an intergenerational effect on the socio-emotional development of her offspring. Finally, for her third dissertation study, she collected original data from over 1,200 high school graduates in China to assess the cross-cultural validity of the Childhood Experiences Survey, an ACEs measure, and to test the psychosocial effects of ACEs in emerging adulthood. Findings from the three studies have the potential to inform public policy along with prevention and intervention design in both China and the United States. For her work, Zhang was awarded a highly competitive Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship from UWM Graduate School.

Aside from her dissertation, Zhang has collaborated with a number of research groups. She is currently working with leading scholars on a national intervention project: National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG). Other collaboration topics include: Groundbreaking work on young caregivers, Wisconsin home visiting evaluation, investigation of mothers in jail, energy drink misuse among college students, exploration of risk and resilience among young black men, and family foster care research in China. Her knowledge of research methods and her ability to apply both quantitative and qualitative methods not only have made her a good collaborator, but also have contributed to several successful research proposals. For example, she coauthored cross-disciplinary research proposals for two education projects funded by the government in Shanghai, China within the past three years.

In addition to her research, Zhang has had many teaching experiences at UWM. She served as a Teaching Assistant and co-instructor for Methods of Social Welfare Research. She also independently taught Evaluation of Practice during the summer of 2018. Students from diverse backgrounds have evaluated her teaching performance favorably. For example, in the most recent class she taught, her average teaching evaluation score on a 7-point scale was 7, as high as can be attained. Based on her experiences, Zhang is prepared to teach a variety of social work courses, including but not limited to Social Work Research Methods, Program and Practice Evaluation, Social Work with Children and Families, and Trauma Theory and Research.


MSW, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2014
M.A., East China Normal University, China, 2010

Research Interests:

  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Toxic stress
  • Trauma and resilience
  • Children and youth development
  • Intergenerational transmission of ACEs
  • Cross-cultural childhood adversity and trauma
  • Translational research

Teaching Interests:

  • Research methods
  • Evaluation of practice
  • Program evaluation
  • Human behavior and social environment
  • Social work with children and families
  • Trauma theory and research