Coles, Robert,1929–, American child psychiatrist, b. Boston, grad. Harvard (B.A., 1950), Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (M.D., 1954). He began working with children while in the air force (1958–60). Coles has been affiliated with Harvard since 1960 and was named professor of psychiatry and medical humanities there in 1978. The author or editor of dozens of books, he is best known for his Children of Crisis (5 vol., 1967–78; Vol. 2–3, Pulitzer Prize), a searching and exhaustive study of American youth facing difficult life situations. In addition to his many works on the young, e.g., The Inner Life of Children (3 vol., 1986) and The Moral Intelligence of Children (1997), he has written literary criticism, e.g., Walker Percy: An American Search (1978); biographies, e.g., Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion (1987); social commentary; books on photography; and hundreds of wide-ranging essays and articles. His many honors include the MacArthur Foundation "genius" award (1981) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1998).
See B. A. Ronda, Intellect and Spirit: The Life and Work of Robert Coles (1989); J. and S. C. Woodruff, ed., Conversations with Robert Coles (1992); study by S. Hilligoss (1997).