Clinical Psychology, PhD
“There are specific health problems that African-Americans are at higher risk of developing, including hypertension, stroke and diabetes,” Jared McShall says, adding that, in comparison to both the general population and other minority groups, within the African-American population there is also a “lower rate of marriage and a higher rate of divorce.”
A doctoral student in clinical psychology, McShall studies the association between the quality of intimate relationships and health (physical and mental) across different ethnicities. The medical community has “been looking at correlations between marital status and health for over 100 years… but [has] only recently begun expanding on these findings by examining the association of marital satisfaction as well as marital status,” he says, “and by examining the whole range of potential outcomes from emotional to physical conditions that may be associated with marital variables.”
McShall explains that while there are government-based initiatives currently dedicated to encouraging healthy marriages because of the potential benefits (e.g., health), such initiatives are “not empirically supported by research for minority populations.” With additional, substantive research, he says “we might be able to establish empirical support for these initiatives and delineate the dynamic between ethnicity, socio-economic status, an individual’s network of support and the happiness they report in their marriage (or committed relationship)—and how each of these factors contribute to health."
Binghamton’s Psychology Department has proved an ideal environment for McShall and his research. “One of the reasons I chose Binghamton University was the research the faculty was doing here… it was incredible,” he says. With an impressive faculty that is internationally respected and renowned, one in particular stood out for McShall: “Dr. Johnson, whose research really appealed to me, [because] he was specifically focusing on relationships and divorce.”
“The collegial atmosphere — the whole environment here — is really just top notch,” McShall says. “I can walk out of one lab and down the hall to another lab or right to a professor’s door and ask a question. If they’re not in the middle of something, I can come right in and get help or get an answer. To be in this environment every day… I couldn’t pass that up.”
McShall has high hopes for putting his research results to use. “I would love to see my research disseminated and applied broadly — at the level of government initiatives that are based on science… in areas where individuals are most at risk, in communities that are primarily underserved,” he says.
Indeed, the implications of his work — which he is writing up for publication — are sure to be far-reaching, affecting a range of applications from how health-care providers determine individual health and risk factors to the way therapy and counseling are viewed by patients and how such sessions are conducted. The key to successful application of his research is, McShall explains, “examining potential causality by doing prospective research as much as possible with a diverse sample. Ideally, we want to observe how changes in relationship quality over time are associated with changes in health during that same period.”
McShall wants to maintain an active research agenda, but what he really looks forward to is working hands-on in the communities he’s passionate about. “I would love to end up working in a hospital or community setting that allows me to incorporate my research interests and still stay true to my original aspiration — targeting health disparities in the African-American community.”