Exploring Toxic Stress

How do childhood adversities impact health in adulthood? This is a question that Mackaully Parada, a second-year doctoral student at the University of Utah College of Social Work, is determined to answer. Formerly working as a licensed clinical social worker in a medical setting, Parada’s patients ranged from youth facing chronic illnesses to geriatric patients. She found a special interest in working with pediatric patients, which inspired her to pursue research around social determinants of health and investigate life-course implications of childhood conditions on adult health outcomes.

Specifically, Parada is interested in the phenomenon of toxic stress. Toxic stress can occur when a child experiences repeated or prolonged adversity without sufficient protective input from supportive adult caregivers. Experiencing toxic stress in childhood is linked to health issues throughout adulthood, including cancer. Parada is studying the long-term health consequences associated with toxic stress, with an emphasis on the ways through which maladaptive behaviors in youth translate into disease in adulthood.

Parada has submitted several papers for publication, including a systematic review on how toxic stress has been operationalized in research. Through her research, she realized that both the definition of toxic stress and the methods used to study it were inconsistent across studies. Starting with recommendations for measurement and standardization, she aims to use her research to develop more precise interventions that target and address the unique needs of children living in overwhelmingly stressful conditions.

Parada plans to stay on the trajectory of improving youth development and planning, advancing the understanding of toxic stress along the way.  Reflecting on her doctoral experience thus far, Parada advised, “As with most great things in life, if you’re waiting for the perfect time to start, you’re likely going to miss it. The world needs change-makers right now who aren’t afraid to ask new questions in the pursuit of a better future for the next generation.”

More articles like this in ‘Student Innovation @ the U!’

Find this article and a lot more in the 2024 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.

Read Report

About the Author:

Avatar photo Gracie is a senior at the University of Utah. She is majoring in Marketing and minoring in Psychology. Gracie is from Heber, Utah and enjoys hiking, skiing, and travelling. Instagram: @gracie.maren and @gracie.maren.photography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *