Michael J. MacKenzie

Dr. Michael MacKenzie is the Canada Research Chair in Child Well-Being (Tier 1) and Full Professor of Social Work, Psychiatry and Pediatrics. He first became interested in developmental pathways involving maltreatment through his extensive work with children in his family’s residential group homes and in foster care in Ontario. This work with children whose early childhood experiences had profoundly shaped the course of their lives sparked his passion for improving family-based supports for maltreated children and those growing up in out-of-home care. 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 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, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma in early childhood and the impact on parenting, including the roots of harsh parenting and the pathways of children into and through the child welfare system.

Dr. MacKenzie is the Research Leader for the Population Neuroscience & Brain Health Theme of the Canadian Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives Initiative at McGill. He was Principal Investigator on a UNICEF funded project in The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan that represented the first formal implementations of therapeutic foster care and juvenile diversion as alternatives to institutionalization in the region. Dr. MacKenzie was also honored as a William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholar for 2014-2019 to support a project examining the biological and social underpinnings of serial placement instability in the foster care system. In 2017, Dr. MacKenzie's was recognized with the Excellence in Research Award from the Society for Social Work and Research.

Dr. MacKenzie holds a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Biology and M.Sc. in Molecular Developmental Genetics from the University of Western Ontario, and a MSW, MA, and Joint Ph.D. in Social Work and Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan.


University of Michigan                                                                

Joint Ph.D. in Social Work and Developmental Psychology, December 2006

“Parent-infant relationship disturbances and child maltreatment in the early years: The impact of risk and stress on parental perceptions and behavior”

Dissertation Co-Chairs: Arnold J. Sameroff & Susan C. McDonough

University of Michigan                                                               

Graduate Certificate in Development, Psychopathology &

Mental Health, December 2006

Involved completing a clinical placement and all foundation coursework from the Clinical Child Psychology Ph.D. program

University of Michigan, Dept of Psychology                 

Master of Arts in Developmental Psychology, 2003

Master’s Thesis:  From attachment to peer relationships: Differing pathways for boys and girls.

University of Michigan School of Social Work           

Master of Social Work, 2001

Major Concentration: Social Policy and Evaluation with Children and Youth

Minor Concentration: Interpersonal Practice with Children and Youth

University of Western Ontario                                                     

Master of Science in Zoology, 2001

Molecular Developmental Genetics Program

Master’s Thesis:  The regulation of Zebrafish Novel Band 4.1-Like Protein 4, and its role in cell-signaling and differentiation.

University of Western Ontario                                                

Bachelor of Science (Hons.) in Biology, 1998


  • Transactional Processes in Child Development
  • Child Well-Being
  • Child Welfare Policy & Practice
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Cumulative Risk, & Trauma
  • Foster Care Placement Trajectories & Models of Group Care
  • Etiology and Outcomes of Child Maltreatment