He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, did his psychiatric residency at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and completed his psychoanalytic training at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute.
Vaillant has spent his research career charting adult development and the recovery process of schizophrenia, heroin addiction, alcoholism, and personality disorder. Through 2003, he spent 30 years as Director of the Study of Adult Development at the Harvard University Health Service. The study has prospectively charted the lives of 724 men and women for over 60 years.
George Eman Vaillant"s father, George Clapp Vaillant, committed suicide in 1945.
He has been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, is a Fellow of the American College of Psychiatrists and has been an invited speaker and consultant for seminars and workshops throughout the world. A major focus of his work in the past has been to develop ways of studying defense mechanisms empirically.
More recently, he has been interested in successful aging and human happiness. In 2008, he took up a supervisory role for psychiatric trainees at Saint Vincent"s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.
In June 2009, Joshua Wolf Shenk published an article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled "What Makes Us Happy?" which focused on Vaillant"s work in the Grant Study, a study of 268 men over many decades.
Vaillant has been married four times. Vaillant sits on the Honorary International Advisory Board of the Mens Sana Monographs. He joined the board of trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous as a Class A (non-alcoholic) trustee in 1998.