Senior Scientist Award winner: William Reynolds, PhD

Identifying students' problems early is an important role for school psychologists.

This award is given for a sustained program of scholarship of exceptional quality throughout one's career. This year's winner is William Reynolds, PhD.

Catching Students Before They Fall

One of my research interests has been the development of methods and procedures to assist school psychologists in catching students before they fall in life-threatening ways. When I started work in this area there was very little published research on depression in children and adolescents, and even less on suicidality.

In 1982 several students and I presented a paper on a multimethod study of depression in elementary school children (Reynolds, Anderson, & Bartell, 1982), which was published several years later (Reynolds, Anderson, & Bartell, 1985). This study found low relationships between child, parent, and teacher reports of children's depression and highlighted the problem inherent in the multi-informant assessment of internalizing disorders and the issue of informant variance (Kazdin, 1996). In July 1982, Kevin Coats and I presented a paper examining prevalence and correlates of depression in adolescents. At the conference I first heard depression in children characterized as one of “subjective misery,” reinforcing the notion that, because of the subjective nature of symptom severity, the best reporter of depression (and internalizing disorders in general) is typically the child. Subsequently we have found that children are reliable reporters of their depressive symptomatology (Reynolds & Graves, 1989).

A large number of studies that my students and I conducted were never submitted for publication. Among these: Dr. Jean Baker's MA thesis (1986) on the efficacy of training teachers to identify depressed students (no difference between trained and untrained teachers – a finding replicated by Kalista Hickman's MA thesis in 2002). Dr. Karla Downey's dissertation (1984) focused on loneliness and depression in a large sample of adolescent using a three month retest period to examine stability. Dr. Gail Anderson (1986) did a substantial investigation of multiple causal models of stress, coping, social support and depression using path analysis with a large sample of adolescents. Dr. Nancy Lopez (1985) conducted the first cross-cultural study of depression in children. Dr. Thomas Evert (1987) evaluated the efficacy of the three stage depression screening model with a large sample of adolescents, which included structured diagnostic clinical interviews at the later stage of the model. Dr. Karen Ott-VandeKamp (2001) conducted a comparison study of depression, stress, and social support in adolescents with and without intellectual disabilities for her MA thesis. Erin Moors' (1999) MA thesis examined gender differences in social problem-solving in depressed and non-depressed adolescents. Diana Misic (1999) examined the relationship of adolescents' violence exposure and their ratings of depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation. Jolene M. Rothrauff (2004) examined social support as a moderator of stress and depression in alternative school students. A number of master's students conducted research on self-harm in children and adolescents, including Jessica Pickens (2005) and Patricia Sorci (2003).

Measures for the Assessment of Depression in Children and Adolescents

At the start of my research on depression in school children and adolescents, there was a need for reliable and valid age appropriate measures. My initial efforts focused on the development of a measure for children, which after it proved effective, was revised for use with adolescents. By 1981, both the Child Depression Scale (later named the Reynolds Child Depression Scale, Reynolds, 1989a) and the Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale (1987) were being used in research studies..

My primary motivation for developing measures of depression for children and adolescents was for the identification of students who manifested clinically significant depressive symptomatology. In this manner schools could quickly screen students and identify students who require targeted interventions and/or referral. Papers describing the logic and procedure for this multi-gate school-based screening for depression was published (Reynolds, 1991a; 1994; 1998). Much of the research for the development, testing, and efficacy of this screening procedure was conducted over a six-year period . (Evert & Reynolds, 1987). Much of this initial research with the RADS and RCDS was published in the manuals for these measures, as well as in several book chapters (Reynolds, 1989b; 1992, 1994). Since their publication, the RADS and RCDS have been used by hundreds of researchers and practitioners in this and other countries.

Screening for Suicidality

After conducting research on screening for depression with several thousand adolescents, it became clear that 25% of nondepressed students reported significant suicidality (Reynolds, 1989b). These students present a range of problems and psychopathology, from extreme anger to thought disorders. I considered this very problematic as the screening procedure, although designed for depression, was also meant to identify students at risk for suicidal behaviors. It was apparent that the screen (as in a net) was not sufficient refined to catch at-risk students. Toward this goal, I developed the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire (SIQ) to assess suicidal cognitions of adolescents, with a 30-item for high school students, and a 15-item version (SIQ-JR) for junior high and middle school students.

My Debt to the Field of School Psychology

My connection with school psychology started at an early age. I am the oldest of four children and grew up with English as a second language. My parents, both of whom had eighth-grade education levels, immigrated to the United States from Vienna, Austria several years before I was born. Their lives had been substantially impacted during the War by years in concentration camps including Auschwitz and Dachau and the loss of their families. In my early elementary school classes I was considered a slow learner , a general label in California ( Moskowitz, 1948) similar to the “borderline mental retardation” classification of that time. As a child I spoke with an accent and used odd words in school and did not understand others. For a while, the school had a speech pathologist work with me, although this did not last long. At a teacher-parent meeting, the teacher told my mother that she should try to speak English with me at home. Subsequently, in the third grade I was tested by a school psychologist. I did not know it at the time – but I still recall that a man with a bow tie and a brief case took me to the school library and had me do some tasks. In hindsight, it is probable that the evaluation was for special class placement. Several months after the assessment, my parents received a letter from the State Department of Education informing them that the State of California had classified me as a “mentally gifted minor.” Beginning in the fourth grade I was placed in the upper ability track, moving with a cohort of students in grades four through eight. In fourth grade they allowed me to work in math at my own pace and I was soon working at the sixth grade level. It was not until I was 24 years old, had completed my Ph.D. in school psychology and accepted my first academic position as an assistant professor at SUNY Albany, did I fully recognized the impact that the school psychologist who tested me in third grade (without expectancy effects) had made in my life.

A major impetus for my research is to help children and adolescents. I started graduate school with the goal of becoming a master's level school psychologist. As research and methods courses stimulated my scientific interests, a half-time research appointment allowed me to continue my graduate education, a career as a university professor emerged as a goal. My work on the development of measures to identify students at-risk is, is i based on the combination of my desire to help children and adolescents and my interest in research in mental health domains.

For over 30 years, the study of depression and suicidality has been one of the most meaningful areas of my research. I am deeply honored by the APA Division 16 award committee in their consideration of my scholarly contributions.