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William R. Avison

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William R. Avison, Professor Emeritus

Scientist and Chair, Children’s Health & Therapeutics, Children’s Health Research Institute
Scientist and Assistant Director, Lawson Health Research Institute
Cross-appointed in Dept. of Paediatrics and Dept. of Epidemiology & Biostatistics Full CV

  • Bio

  • Teaching

  • Publications

  • Research

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Biographical Notes

Ph.D. Sociology, U. Alberta,
M.A. Sociology, U. Alberta,
B.A. Sociology,  U. Alberta

Special Appointments and Honours

2013 – 2015   Chair, Council for Canadian Child Health Research

2012 – Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

2010-14 Editor, Society and Mental Health , The Journal of the ASA Section on the Sociology of Mental Health

2010-13 Chair, Board of Directors, Ontario Mental Health Foundation

2009 Leonard I. Pearlin Award, for Significant Contributions to the Study of the Sociology of Mental Health, American Sociological Association

2009 Chair, Medical Sociology Section, American Sociological Association

2006 - Keynote Speaker, Tenth International Conference on Social Stress Research, Portsmouth, NH

2004 – James Greenley Award, for Distinguished Contributions to the Sociology of Mental Health, Society for the Study of Social Problems

2004 – Vanier Roots and Wings Award, for outstanding contributions to family and children’s mental health, Vanier Children's Services

Dr. Avison is a sociologist with expertise in the sociology and epidemiology of mental health. His current research focuses on the ways in which socio-economic disadvantage and various types of social stressors affect the mental health of families and children. He has published widely in international journals in sociology and psychiatry on a number of issues in the sociology of mental health. He has held operating grants from Health Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research since 1989. He was named as a Senior Research Fellow of the Ontario Mental Health Foundation from 1994-2000. He was the 2004 recipient of the Society for the Study of Social Problems' James R. Greenley Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Sociology of Mental Health. He was also named recipient of the 2009 Leonard I. Pearlin Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Sociological Study of Mental Health from the American Sociological Association. In 2012, he was elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Dr. Avison is past Chair of the Medical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association (ASA). He is also a past Chair of the Sociology of Mental Health Section of the ASA and of the Psychiatric Sociology Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. He is the Founding Editor of Society & Mental Health, the official journal of the ASA Section on the Sociology of Mental Health and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. He has served on scientific review committees for the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Ontario Ministry of Health, and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and National Institutes of Health. He has also chaired numerous grant review committees for the National Health Research and Development Program of Health Canada, including the Child Mental Health, Child Health, National Population Health Survey, and the Rehabilitation Outcomes Committees. He is the past chair of the Children’s Health Committee of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Public, Community, and Population Health Review Committee of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He chairs the Selection Committee of the Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program.

Dr. Avison is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Ontario Mental Health Foundation. He has been a board member of Madame Vanier Children's Services, Family Service London, the London and Middlesex Co-ordinating Council for Children and Youth, and the London Inter-Community Health Centre. He is a former Chair of the Resource Steering Committee of Kids Count, a primary prevention and health promotion program in 11 neighborhoods in London, and was the first Chair of Investing in Children in London. He has served on the City of London Mayor's Anti-Poverty Task Force. He was also the Academic Advisor to the Western Mustangs Men's Intercollegiate Basketball Program from 1993 - 2007. In 2004, he received the Vanier Roots and Wings Award for contributions to family and children's mental health.


Teaching Awards

2005-06 - USC Teaching Honour Roll, The University of Western Ontario

Thesis Supervision

Supervisory Status:  MA, PhD

PhD Theses

2015    Jinette Comeau (jointly supervised with Andrea Willson), Children's Mental Health Over the Early Life Course: The Impact of Economic Resources, Neighborhood Disorder, and Family Processes.

2013    Jennifer Reynolds, Ph.D. Program (in progress)

2015    Stacey Hallman (jointly supervised with Alain Gagnon), The Demographic Links Between the 1890 and 1918 Influenza Pandemics in Canada.

2014    Yvonne Asare-Bediako, Children's Mental Health: The Role & Contribution of a Sociological Perspective.

2013    Jamie A. Seabrook, Family Structure and Children’s Socioeconomic Attainment in the Transition to Adulthood. Ph.D. Dissertation (primary supervisor)

Heather Maddocks,  Underemployment, Unemployment, and Mental Health.

John Cairney, Age, Socioeconomic Status and the Stress Process.

Jennifer Ali, Gender, Social Class and Mental Health: Elaborating the Sociological Approach to the Stress Processes.

Terrance Wade, Stress and Distress Among Husbands and Wives.

MA Theses (last ten)

Jason Novick (jointly supervised with Lorraine Davies), A Life Course Investigation of the Differences in Psychological Distress of Mothers by Family Structure Trajectories.

Michelle Chandler, Parental Strain and Children's Mental Health.

John Rietschlin, On the Contribution of Community to Psychological Well-being: The Importance of Incorporating Group Membership into Stress Research.

Sandra Jeffery, The Relationship Between Maternal and Child Competence.

Jennifer Butters, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psychological Distress: An Analysis of Psychosocial Aspects of Adjustment.

Cathy Thorpe, Marital Status and Gender Differences in Distress.

Michael Boynton, Statistical Power and Sociological Research.

Timothy McCutcheon, Social Competence and Psychiatric Outcome: An Evaluation of a Construct.

Sharlene Waugh, Loneliness, Social Support, and Depression.

Lorraine Davies, Depression Across the Life Course: Social Support as an Etiological Factor.

Blake Turner, Dimensions of Psychological Well-Being: Interim and Long-term Components.

MA Research Paper

Annie Gong (jointly supervised with Rachel Margolis), Retirees' Participation in Bridge Employment and Psychological Distress: The Mediating and Moderating Effects of Social Support.

Loanna Heidinger, The Enduring Strain of Growing Up in Disorder: A Longitudinal Analysis of Perceived Neighbourhood Disorder and Subsequent Psychological Distress.

Elisa Bararuk, Examining Parenting Interactions in Their Rural-Urban Contexts .

Devin Locher,  The Association Between Parental Mental Health and Children's Emotional and Behavioral Outcomes:  An Analysis of Mediating Pathways.

Stephanie Thomas, Examining Suicidal Ideations in Emerging Adults.

Select Publications
>for more see Full CV


(2010) Advances in the Conceptualization of the Stress Process: Essays in Honor of Leonard I. Pearlin , William R. Avison, Carol S. Aneshensel, Scott Schieman, and Blair Wheaton (eds.) Springer.

(2007) Mental Health, Social Mirror , William R. Avison, Jane McLeod, and Bernice Pescosolido (eds.)  Springer Publishing.

Book Chapters:

(2012) “The impact of mental illness on the family” (with Jinette Comeau) in Carol S. Aneshensel, Jo C. Phelan, and Alex Bierman (eds.), Handbook of the Sociology of Mental Health , 2nd ed.  Springer.

(2010) "Stress" (pp. 242-267) (with Stephanie S. Thomas) in William C. Cockerham (ed.) The New Blackwell Companion to Medical Sociology   Wiley-Blackwell.

(2010) " Family structure and women’s lives: A life course perspective" (pp. 71-92) in William R. Avison, Carol S. Aneshensel, Scott Schieman, and Blair Wheaton (eds.) Advances in the Conceptualization of the Stress Process: Essays in Honor of Leonard I. Pearlin   Springer.

(2008) "Family structure and mothers’ mental health: A life course perspective on stability and change" (with Lorraine Davies, Andrea Willson, and Kim Shuey) in Heather A. Turner and Scott Schieman (eds.) Stress Processes across the Life Course: Advances in Life Course Research   Vol.13 (pp. 233-255) Elsevier.

(2007) "Through the looking glass: The fortunes of the sociology of mental health" (with B. Pescosolido and J. McLeod) (pp. 3-32) in William R. Avison, Jane D. McLeod, and Bernice A. Pescosolido (eds.) Mental Health, Social Mirror ,  Springer.

(2007) "Social change and the production of knowledge about mental illness and its treatment" (with L. Pearlin and E. Fazio) (pp. 33-53) in William R. Avison, Jane D. McLeod, and Bernice A. Pescosolido (eds.) Mental Health, Social Mirror ,  Springer.


(2012) “Examining the pathways of pre- and postnatal health information” (with Sabrina Youash, M. Karen Campbell, Deborah Penava, and Bin Xie) Canadian Journal of Public Health 103:314-19.

(2012) “Socioeconomic status and cumulative disadvantage processes across the life course: Implications for health outcomes” (with  Jamie A. Seabrook) Canadian Review of Sociology 49:51-68.

(2011) "The impact of maternal depressive symptoms on health-related quality of life in children with epilepsy: A prospective study of family environment as mediators and moderators"  (with Mark A. Ferro, M. Karen Campbell, and Kathy N. Speechley) Epilepsia  52(2): 316-325.

(2011) "Prevalence and trajectories of depressive symptoms in mothers of children with newly diagnosed epilepsy"  (with Mark A. Ferro, M. Karen Campbell, and Kathy N. Speechley)  Epilepsia 52(2): 326-336.

(2010) “Incorporating children’s lives into a life course perspective on stress and mental health”   Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51(4): 361-375.

(2010) "Higher zinc intake buffers the impact of stress on depressive symptoms in pregnancy"  (with Amrita Roy, Susan E. Evers, and M. Karen CampbellNutrition Research  30(10): 695-704

(2010) “Do depressive symptoms affect mothers’ reports of child outcomes in children with new-onset epilepsy?” (with Mark A. Ferro, M. Karen Campbell, and Kathy Nixon Speechley) Quality of Life Research. 19(7): 955-964.

(2010) "Cumulative Trauma, Personal and Social Resources, and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms Among Income-assisted Single Mothers"  (with Joan A. Samuels-Dennis, Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, Piotr Wilk, and Susan Ray) Journal of Family Violence  25(6): 603-617.

(2010) “Genotype-environment interaction and sociology: Contributions and complexities” (with Jamie A. Seabrook) Social Science & Medicine  70(9): 1277-1284.

(2008) “Depressive symptoms during pregnancy in relation to fish consumption and intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” (with Jessica Sontrop, Susan E. Evers, Kathy N. Speechley, and M. Karen Campbell) Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 22(4): 389-399

(2007) “Fish consumption among pregnant women in London, Ontario: Associations with sociodemographic and health and lifestyle factors.” (with Jessica Sontrop, Susan E. Evers, Kathy N. Speechley, and M. Karen Campbell) Canadian Journal of Public Health 98(5): 389-394

(2007) “Family structure, stress, and psychological distress: A demonstration of the impact of differential exposure.” (with Jennifer Ali and David Walters) Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 48(3):301-314.

Other Publications:

(2010)  Vital Communities, Vital Support: How well do Canada's communities support parents of young children? Phase 2 Report: What Parents Tell Us (with Carol Crill Russell, Nancy Birnbaum, Palmina Ioannone)  Invest in Kids Foundation, 86 pages. 

(2009) An Outcome Evaluation of a Set of Interventions Designed to Enhance the Educational Attainment of Children in Care (with Paul C. Whitehead, and Piotr Wilk) Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.  84 pages.

(2007)  "Environmental factors" in G. Fink (ed.), Encyclopedia of Stress  Oxford, U.K.: Elsevier Limited.  pp 934-940.

Dr. Avison specializes in the Sociology of Mental Health and in Medical Sociology. He holds cross-appointments in the Department of Paediatrics and the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics. He is also Scientist and Chair of the Division of Children’s Health and Therapeutics of the Children’s Health Research Institute and Scientist and Assistant Director of the Lawson Health Research Institute.

His program of research focuses on social disparities in maternal and child health and on the study of families experiencing stress across the life course.  He is Principal Investigator of a CIHR grant to investigate how marital status and cohabitation are related to the well-being of new mothers and their infants. With three other scientists from the Children's Health Research Institute (Drs. Jason Gilliland, Victor Han, and Gerald Kidder), he is Co-Principal Investigator of a project funded by the Green Shield Foundation to map the distribution of several prevalent childhood illnesses in southwestern Ontario.

He is also a Co-Investigator on a national study funded by CIHR to re-evaluate the Alberta Infant Motor Scale (Co-PIs:  Drs. Johanna Darrah and Doreen Bartlett) and on a national survey on work, stress, and mental health (PI: Dr. Scott Schieman). He is a Co-Applicant and Chair of the Selection Committee of theCanadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program, a Strategic Initiative inHealth Research Program funded by CIHR (PI: Dr. Norman Rosenblum).  He also collaborates on a multi-disciplinary team grant to study fetal growth restriction (PI: Dr. Victor Han). Most recently, he is collaborating with a multi-disciplinary team (PI: Dr. Jason Gilliland) on a study of the built environment, physical activity, and obesity in children.

Dr. Avison is the Principal Investigator of a funded research project entitled "A Life Course Analysis of Family Structure, Stress and Mothers' Mental Health," a study of the experiences of married, cohabiting, and single mothers shortly after the birth of their child.  He also collaborates on a multidisciplinary study (Dr. M. Karen Campbell, Principal Investigator) that follows a large cohort of mothers and their children from their second trimester of pregnancy through childhood into adolescence.

Current Research Projects

Dr. Avison is collaborating with an interdisciplinary team on a Green Shield Canada Foundation funded project to examine the spatial distribution of prevalent children’s diseases and illnesses in southwestern Ontario.

Identifying Causal Effects of the Built Environment on Physical Activity, Diet and Obesity among Children

Canadian Infants’ Motor Abilities: A Validation of the Alberta Infant Motor Scale Normative Data

Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program

A Life Course Analysis of Family Structure, Stress, and Mothers’ Mental Health:  Setting the Stage for a Prospective Study of Families

Demands and Resources in Work and Family Life and Their Implications for Stress and Health among Canadians

Dr. Avison also collaborates on a multidisciplinary study of fetal growth restriction.