MacArthur Fellows Program

Robert Coles

Child Psychiatrist | Class of June 1981

Child Psychiatrist
Cambridge, Massachusetts
52 at time of award
Published June 1, 1981

About Robert's Work

Robert Coles is a child psychiatrist who studies the way children grow up in a variety of social and cultural situations.

Coles has studied school desegregation, the children of migrant farmworkers and sharecroppers, and the effects of school busing on children.  More recently, he has examined the manner in which racial, religious, social, and ideological conflicts shape the moral and political thinking of children.  His work has taken him to rural and urban locales in South and North America, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Nicaragua, and Poland.  Coles’ books include the five-volume Children of Crisis (1967-78), The Moral Life of Children (1986), The Political Life of Children (1986), The Spiritual Life of Children (1990), and The Moral Intelligence of Children: How to Raise a Moral Child (1996), The Secular Mind (2001), and Children of Crisis (2003).


A professor of psychiatry and medical humanities at Harvard University’s Medical School, Coles is also the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University.  He is a founding member of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, where he is a continuing visiting professor in the Department of History.

Coles received an A.B. (1950) from Harvard University and an M.D. (1954) from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

Select News Coverage of Robert Coles
February 12, 2010
"Learning From Ruby Bridges"
Robert Coles , 1981 MacArthur Fellow
December 16, 2004
"Children and God"
On Being
Robert Coles , 1981 MacArthur Fellow
February 28, 1997
"Raising a Moral Child"
Robert Coles , 1981 MacArthur Fellow
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