Michael MacKenzie

Associate Professor


Professor MacKenzie first became interested in developmental pathways involving abuse and neglect through his extensive work with children in his family’s residential group homes in Canada. This work with children whose early childhood experiences had profoundly shaped the course of their lives sparked his passion for improving the lives of maltreated children and those growing up in out-of-home care through early relationship-based intervention strategies and alternative models of care when maintaining families is not possible. These experiences also focused his efforts on better understanding the dynamic connections between the biological and social worlds of the developing child. Dr. MacKenzie is one of a very small number of Social Work researchers with advanced graduate training in molecular genetics and physiology, allowing him to incorporate work on the stress hormone system and gene expression into his transdisciplinary studies of early social deprivation and harsh parenting. Dr. MacKenzie’s focus is on the accumulation of stress and risk in early parenting and the impact on caregiver perceptions and subsequent parenting behavior, including the etiology of harsh parenting and the pathways of children into and through the child welfare system.

Dr. MacKenzie’s program of research has been recognized with early career awards from both the International Society on Infant Studies (ISIS) and Zero-To-Three (ZTT) the national infancy center. His widely cited Development & Psychopathology article revisiting the Transactional Model of Development with colleague Arnold Sameroff was recently selected to be reprinted in the four volume Social and Emotional Development, a selection of 99 seminal articles chosen as “the most influential and fundamental research” from the early 1960s to date in this area of child development.

Dr. MacKenzie is Co-Principal Investigator on a multi-year UNICEF funded randomized trial of foster care and community diversion alternatives to institutions for youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The project represents one of the first formal implementations of community-based alternatives to institutional care in the region. Dr. MacKenzie was also recently honored as a W.T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholar for 2014-2019 to support a NYC project examining the biological and social underpinnings of serial placement instability in the foster care system.

Research Interests:

  • Dynamic processes in human development over the Lifespan
  • Social, familial and biological transactions in Developmental Psychopathology
  • Child maltreatment prediction and prevention in early childhood
  • Foster care placement trajectories and models of group care
  • Child Welfare policy and practice

Current Projects:

  • Attachment and change processes for children experiencing placement instability in a population of foster children
  • Cumulative risk and child maltreatment outcomes from birth through emerging adulthood
  • Behavioral, emotional and physiological regulation in toddlers of depressed mothers followed from pregnancy through the preschool period
  • A randomized trial of the first implementation of foster care and juvenile justice diversion in Jordan

Selected Recent Publications:

MacKenzie, M.J., Nicklas, E., Brooks-Gun, J., & Waldfogel, J. (in press). Spanking and child externalizing behavior across the first 9 years-of-life: Evidence for transactional processes involving cumulative risk. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Conway, A., McDonough, S. C., MacKenzie, M. J., Miller, A. L., Dayton, C., Rosenblum, K.. Muzik, M. & Sameroff, A. J. (in press). Maternal sensitivity and latency to positive emotion following challenge: Pathways through effortful control. Infant Mental Health Journal.

MacKenzie, M. J., Nicklas, E., Waldfogel, J., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2013). Spanking and child development across the first decade of life. Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-1227

Gearing, R.E., MacKenzie, M. J., Schwalbe, C.S., Brewer, K.B., & Ibrahim, R.W. (2013). Prevalence of mental health and behavioral problems in adolescents in institutional care in Jordan. Psychiatric Services, 64, 196-200.

Conway, A.E., McDonough, S.C., MacKenzie, M. J., Follet, C., & Sameroff, A.J. (2013) Stress- related changes in toddlers and their mothers following the attack of September 11th. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83, 536-544.

Gearing, R.E., Schwalbe, C.S., MacKenzie, M. J., Brewer, K.B., Ibrahim, R.W., Olimat, H.S., Al- Makhamreh, S.S., Mian, I., & Al-Krenawi, A. (2013). Adaptation and translation of mental health interventions in Middle Eastern Arab countries: A systematic review of barriers to and strategies for effective treatment implementation. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 59, 671-681.

MacKenzie, M. J., Liu, D., & Sameroff, A.J. (2013). Moving beyond the child care debate toward implications for social and political agendas. Children & Youth Services Review, 35, 3-6.

Schawlbe, C.S., Gearing, R.E., MacKenzie, M. J., Brewer, K.B., & Ibrahim, R.W. (2013). The impact of length of placement on self-reported mental health problems in detained Jordanian youth. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 36, 107-112.

Garner, R. E., Arim, R. G., Kohen, D. E., Lach, L. M., MacKenzie, M. J., Brehaut J. C., & Rosenbaum, P. L. (2013). Parenting children with neurodevelopmental disorders and/or behaviour problems. Child: Care, Health & Development, 39, 412-421.

Nicklas, E., & MacKenzie, M. J. (2013). Intimate Partner Violence and Risk for Child Neglect in a Community Sample of Fragile Families. Journal of Family Violence, 28, 17-29.

Schwalbe, C.S., Ibrahim, R., Brewer, K., MacKenzie, M. J., & Gearing R.E. (2013). Is program structure related to stigma and community acceptance of justice-involved adolescents? Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 871-876.

Gearing, R.E., Brewer, K.B., Schwalbe, C.S., MacKenzie, M. J., & Ibrahim, R. (2013). Stigma and adolescents with Psychosis in the Middle East: Implications for engaging in mental health treatment. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 201, 68-71.

MacKenzie, M. J., Brewer, K.B., Schwalbe, C.S.J., Gearing, R.E., Ibrahim, R.W., Batayneh, J., Darwish, D.M., Al-Kharabsheh, J., & Al-Zu’bi, M.H. (2012). Foster care as a viable alternative to institutional care in the Middle East: Community acceptance and stigma across type of placement in Jordan. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 33(6), 517-521.

Arim, R.G., Garner, R.E., Brehaut, J.C., Lach, L.M., MacKenzie, M. J., Rosenbaum, P., & Kohen, D.E. (2012). Contextual influences of parenting behaviors for children with neurodevelopmental disorders: Results from a Canadian national survey. Disability and Rehabilitation, 34, 2222-2233.

MacKenzie, M. J., Nicklas, E., Waldfogel, J., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2012). Corporal punishment and child behavioral and cognitive outcomes through 5 years-of-age: Evidence from a contemporary urban birth cohort study. Infant and Child Development, 21, 3-33.

Tucker, D. J., & MacKenzie, M. J. (2012). Attachment theory and change processes in foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 2208-2219.

Schwalbe, C.S., Gearing, R.E., MacKenzie, M. J., Brewer, K., & Ibrahim, R. (2012). A meta- analysis of experimental studies of diversion programs for juvenile offenders. Clinical Psych Review, 32, 26-33.

MacKenzie, M. J., Kotch, J. B., Lee, L. C., Augsberger, A., & Hutto, N. (2011). The cumulative ecological risk model of child maltreatment and child behavioral outcomes: Reconceptualizing reported maltreatment as risk factor. Children & Youth Services Review, 33, 2392-2398.

Marcus, S., Lopes, J.F., McDonough, S., MacKenzie, M. J., Flynn, H., Neal Jr., C.R., Gahagan, S., Volling, B., Kaciroti, N., & Vazquez, M. (2011). Depressive symptoms during pregnancy: Impact on neuroendocrine and neonatal outcomes. Infant Behavior & Dev, 34, 26-34.

MacKenzie, M. J., Nicklas, E., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Waldfogel, J. (2011). Who spanks infants and toddlers? Evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study. Children & Youth Services Review, 33, 1364-1373.

Gearing, R.E., Townsend, L., MacKenzie, M. J., & Charach, A. (2011). Reconceptualizing adherence: Six phases of dynamic adherence. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 19, 177-189.

MacKenzie, M.J., Kotch, J.B., & Lee, L-C. (2011). Toward a cumulative ecological risk model for the etiology of child maltreatment. Children & Youth Services Review, 33, 1638-1648.

MacKenzie, M. J., & Tucker, D. J. (2010). Death and Taxes: Child Health and the State Tax Freedom race. Children & Youth Services Review, 32(12), 1803-1806.

MacKenzie, M. J., & McDonough, S.C. (2009). Transactions between perception and reality: Maternal beliefs and infant regulatory behavior. In A.J. Sameroff (Ed), The Transactional Model of Development: How children and contexts shape each other (pp 35-54). Washington: APA Books.