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George Eman Vaillant, M.D. (born 1934) is an American psychiatrist and Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of Research for the Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. Vaillant has spent his research career charting adult development and the recovery process of schizophrenia, heroin addiction, alcoholism, and personality disorder. He has spent the last 30 years as Director of the Study of Adult Development at the Harvard University Health Service. The study has prospectively charted the lives of 824 men and women for over 60 years.


Son of George Clapp Vaillant, a well known anthropologist who killed himself in 1945, George Eman Vaillant was traumatized by his father's suicide and thus had deep emotional reasons for becoming a psychiatrist. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, did his psychiatric residency at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and completed his psychoanalytic training at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute. He has been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, is a Fellow of the American College of Psychiatrists and has been an invited speaker and consultant for seminars and workshops throughout the world.

A major focus of his work in the past has been to develop ways of studying defense mechanisms empirically; more recently, he has been interested in successful aging and in human happiness. Vaillant has been married three times, returning to his second, Australian, wife after his third wife left him. In 2008, he took up a supervisory role for psychiatric trainees at St. Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. In June 2009 Joshua Wolf Shenk published an article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled "What Makes Us Happy?" which focused on Vaillant's work in the Grant Study, a study of 268 men over many decades.


Dr. Vaillant has received the Foundations Fund Prize for Research in Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association, the Strecker Award from The Pennsylvania Hospital, the Burlingame Award from The Institute for Living, and the Jellinek Award for research in alcoholism. Most recently he received the research prize of the International Psychogeriatric Society[1].


  • Vaillant, GE (1977), Adaptation to Life, Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 1977 (also Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Hardcover, 396pp ISBN: 0316895202) [also German, Korean and Chinese translations] (Reprinted with a new preface in 1995 by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA)
  • Vaillant, GE (1983), Natural History of Alcoholism, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press
  • Vaillant, GE (1992), Ego Mechanisms of Defense: A Guide for Clinicians and Researchers, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Press
  • Vaillant, GE (1993), The Wisdom of the Ego, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, ISBN: 0674953738
  • Vaillant, GE (1995), The Natural History of Alcoholism Revisited, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, [also (Brazilian) Portuguese translation]
  • Vaillant, GE (2002), Aging Well, Boston, Little Brown, ISBN 0-316-09007-7
  • Vaillant, GE (2008), Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith , Broadway Books, ISBN 0767926579

Further reading

See also

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