Scientist NameDavid Reiss, M.D.

Affiliated Scientist
Oregon Social Learning Center
Dana K. SmithPrimary research and clinical interests

 

Dr. Reiss, Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, began a program of research on family process over forty five years ago. Deploying field and laboratory methods, his earlier worked focused on the social processes that influence cognition with special reference to schizophrenia and conduct disorders in adolescence. Much of that work is summarized in The Family's Construction of Reality (Harvard U. Press, 1981). In the mid 80s Dr. Reiss was among the first social scientists to recognize the importance of integrating genetics and powerful, genetically-informed designs into detailed studies of social process in families.

Accordingly, in collaboration with Robert Plomin and Mavis Hetherington, he was principal investigator of the Nonshared Environment in Adolescent Development (NEAD). NEAD was the first major effort to understand a major finding in behavioral genetics: siblings in the same family were similar primarily for genetic reasons. NEAD provided the most compelling data on heritable evocative effects of children on how parents treated them but also on large effects of these heritable characteristics on parents' relationship with each other and on the selection of children and adolescents into peer groups. These data suggest the central role that heritable evocative processes may play in the behavioral expression of genes for child and adult psychopathology. This hypothesis is currently being pursued by two large studies subsequent to NEAD designed by Dr. Reiss. The Twin and Offspring Study in Sweden (TOSS) has confirmed the evoked effects observed in NEAD while also documenting the substantial effects of parents' genes on their parenting and marital relationships (in collaboration with Jenae Neiderhiser, Paul Lichtenstein and Nancy Pedersen). The Early Growth and Development Study (EGDS) (in collaboration with Jenae Neiderhiser, Leslie Leve and Xiaojia Ge), the first prospective adoption study to examine social emotional development of children, is focusing on these evocative process in toddlers and pre-school children with an eye towards relational factors that may moderate them and thus provide clues for family process intervention to reduce genetic risk for several behavioral disorders.

After retiring from 35 years of service as Director of the Center for Family Research at the George Washington School of Medicine, Dr. Reiss came to Yale where he is initiating, in collaboration with Linda Mayes, the Program in the Psychobiology of Parenting and Partnership. PPPP aims to encourage the further integration of genetics, neuroscience and family process