Faculty Profiles

Sandra Yu Rueger Headshot

Sandra Yu Rueger, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology

On Faculty since 2011
BGH M215

View CV

Dr. Sandra Yu Rueger is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Youth Risk and Resilience Lab (YouRR Lab) at Wheaton College.  As a faculty member, Dr. Rueger seeks to inspire students to strive for excellence in their learning, and she values facilitating students’ integration of faith and psychological principles. As a researcher, she aims to add to the scientific understanding of risk and resilience factors related to stress adaptation in underserved populations, and inform clinical practice in the prevention and treatment of depression and alcohol use disorders. As a clinician, Dr. Rueger is dually licensed as a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist and has worked in a wide range of mental health settings, including psychiatric medical centers, community mental health centers, a church-based counseling center, and private practice. What Dr. Rueger loves most about being at Wheaton College is the opportunity to mentor students and help them to discern God’s calling and work toward career goals. Dr. Rueger and her husband are empty-nesters with three adult children and two grandchildren, and are members of Church of the Savior where she is honored to serve as a Prayer and Communion Minister.  When not working, she enjoys spending time with family and friends – playing games, enjoying good food, and just laughing and living life together.

Northern Illinois University
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

Wheaton College
M.A., Clinical Psychology

Northwestern University
B.A., Psychology

Children's Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago)
Predoctoral Internship

The University of Chicago
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Substance Abuse

State of Illinois
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#166000356)

State of Illinois
Licensed Clinical Psychologist (#071008856)

  • Social Support
  • Depression
  • Alcohol Use Disorders
  • Scale Development
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Family Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • American Psychological Association
  • Association for Psychological Science
  • Research Society on Alcoholism
  • Christian Association for Psychological Studies

Stories of Hope (Psalm 85) - Wheaton College Chapel, November 16, 2018


Clients, therapists say culture plays key role in mental health treatment
Daily Herald

The collectivist nature of some cultures can deter people from seeking treatment, says Sandra Yu Rueger, a psychologist and professor in Wheaton College's clinical psychology doctoral program who is researching mental health among Korean Americans. People think, "If I were to seek out help, not only does that mean there's something wrong with me, but there's something wrong with my family -- or my parents didn't do their job," Yu Rueger said...
view more

No youth is an island: Examining social support and depression through a multidisciplinary lens. Chair of Cross-disciplinary symposium presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, 2017
Rueger, S. Y. , Secord, S., Diamond, G., Spilt, J., & Kang, E., & Malecki, C. M.

Fostering church-psychology collaborations to address the mental health needs of Asian Americans. Annual Conference of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, 2017

Hope as a pathway in the relation between social support and depression in early adolescence. Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, 2020
Rueger, S.Y., *Zhou, X. Y., & *Pyun, Y., & *Beall, M.

Research considerations to increase understanding of cross-cultural worker well-being. Annual Conference of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, 2019
*Tseng, L., *Lee, T., *Rim, I., *Rode, T., *Wang, J., & Rueger, S. Y.

Parental support and well-being in Chinese American adolescents: Cultural considerations. Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, 2017
Rueger, S. Y., *Hwang, J., *Steggerda, J., *Tseng, L., & *Jin, A.

Reaching faith-based communities with empirically supported treatments for adolescent depression. Annual Conference of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, 2017
Rueger, S. Y., *Case, S., *Jin, A., *Mendez, P., & *Steggerda, J.

Asian American drinking motives during adolescence. Annual Meeting of Research Society on Alcoholism, 2015
Rueger, S. Y., King, A. C., & *Smith, L.

Drinking, abstaining and limiting motives in Young Adult Drinkers. Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, 2013, APA Division 50 Award Winner
*Daniel, Q., *Meadow, M., *Rabe, K., Hall, S. & Rueger, S. Y.

Ethnic differences in attributional style across three dimensions in early adolescents. Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, 2012
*Jackson, A., *Wu, E., Richmond, A., Ph.D., & Rueger, S. Y.

Validation of the Brief Biphasic Alcohol Effects Scale (B-BAES) in high risk drinkers. Annual Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, 2011, Enoch Gordis Research Recognition Winner, Rueger, S. Y., & King, A. C.

Psychometric properties of a modified version of the Children’s Attributional Style Interview in a sample of fifth and sixth grade children. Annual Convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, 2005, Elsie Ramos Memorial Student Research Award Winner, Rueger, S. Y., & Malecki, C. K.

*student co-authors

  • Family Theory and Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Theory and Practice
  • Research and Statistics II: Research Methods
  • Substance Abuse
  • Practicum Seminar
  • Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology: Motivational Interviewing
  • Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology: Meta-Analysis
  • Family Systems Theory and Counseling (M.A. program)
  • Collaborative Research: Research Lab Section (B.A. program)
  • Independent Study (B.A. program)

What allows someone to experience adversity and not only survive but thrive?  Experiences from Dr. Rueger’s family, including her mother’s hopeful stance toward life in spite of the loss of her father in childhood to martyrdom, laid the foundation for her growing desire to understand risk and resilience in the face of stressful life events. The privilege of working with clients to overcome life obstacles and learn to lead meaningful lives in spite of painful life experiences in her clinical work helped to foster this desire further. This combination of meaningful personal and professional experiences led to the development of her program of research.

Dr. Rueger’s research interests focus on individual differences in response to stress, and the risk and resilience factors related to adaptive coping and persistence in the face of negative events. She is particularly interested in vulnerabilities related to pessimistic thinking patterns, the protective role of an individual’s positive attributional style, social support, and hope, and the use of substances as a maladaptive coping response to stress. Differences based on gender or ethnicity/race are of particular interest. She also has interests in the development and testing of psychometrically sound assessment instruments used in research, and synthesizing knowledge from previous research using meta-analytic strategies.

Dr. Rueger has been honored with awards for her research, including most recently the Senior Faculty Scholarship Achievement Award from Wheaton College. Funding sources for her research include the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Blue Cross Blue Shield, G. W. Aldeen Memorial Fund, Wheaton College Alumni Association, and the Diversity and Justice Initiative at Wheaton College. Her research has been published in journals including Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Parenting: Science and Practice, Journal of School Psychology, Psychopharmacology, Addiction, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, and Journal of Psychology and Theology.

Dr. Rueger is currently collaborating with the Center for Asian Health Equity at the University of Chicago as a Co-Principal Investigator on the “Coalition for Healthy Asian Minds” Project funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Affordability Cures Research Grant ($1.5 million) to develop interventions to reduce stigma and encourage mental health care in the Asian American communities in Chicagoland.  In addition, she continues to collaborate with the Clinical Addictions Research Lab at the University of Chicago, where she completed an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship. 

Dr. Rueger directs the Youth Risk and Resilience (YouRR) Lab at Wheaton College where she works with both graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in studying risk and resilience factors related to stress adaptation, especially in underserved populations.

A meta-analytic review of the association between perceived social support and depression in childhood and adolescence, Psychological Bulletin 
Rueger, S. Y., Malecki, C. M., Pyun, Y., Aycock, C., & Coyle, S., 2016 
This meta-analysis evaluated the relation between social support and depression in youth and compared the cumulative evidence for 2 theories that have been proposed to explain this association: the general benefits (GB; also known as main effects) and stress-buffering (SB) models. The study included 341 articles (19% unpublished) gathered through a search in PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, ERIC, and ProQuest, and a hand search of 11 relevant journals. Using a random effects model, the overall effect size based on k = 341 studies and N = 273,149 participants was r = .26 (95% CI [.24, .28]), with robust support for the GB model and support for the SB model among medically ill youth. Stress-buffering analyses suggest that different stressful contexts may not allow youth to fully draw on the benefits of social support, and we propose value in seeking to better understand both stress-buffering (effects of social support are enhanced) and reverse stress-buffering (effects of social support are dampened) processes. Key findings regarding other moderators include a different pattern of effect sizes across various sources of support. In addition, gender differences were largely absent from this study, suggesting that social support may be a more critical resource for boys than is typically acknowledged. Results also demonstrated the importance of using instruments with adequate psychometric support, with careful consideration of methodological and conceptual issues. Building upon these collective findings, we provide recommendations for theory and practice, as well as recommendations for addressing limitations in the extant literature to guide future investigations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Using Jones’ integration approach to accommodate Attachment-Based Family Therapy to Christian treatment of depression in adolescence. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 2020
Rueger, S. Y., Jones, S. L., & Worthington, E. L., Jr.

“Mere” Christian forgiveness: An ecumenical Christian conceptualization of forgiveness through the lens of stress-and-coping theory. Religions, 2019
Worthington, E. L., Jr., Rueger, S. Y., Davis, E. B., & Wortham, J.

Indirect effects of attributional style for positive events on depressive symptoms through self-esteem in early adolescence, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2016
Rueger, S. Y., & George, R.

Stability and change in perceived support from adults in the development of depressive symptoms during the transition to middle school, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2014 
Rueger, S. Y., Chen. P., Jenkins, L. N., Choe, H. J.

Effects of peer victimization on psychological and academic adjustment in early adolescence. School Psychology Quarterly, 2014
Rueger, S. Y. & Jenkins, L. N.

Differences in subjective response to alcohol in heavy and light drinking Chinese men versus Caucasian-American men. Addictions, 2014
Rueger, S. Y., Hu, H. X., McNamara, P., Cao, D. C., Hao, W., & King, A. K.

A self-administered web-based Timeline Followback procedure for drinking and smoking behaviors in young adults. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2012
Rueger, S. Y., Trela, C. J., Palmeri, M., & King, A. K.

Relationship between parental affect and parenting behavior: A meta-analytic review. Parenting: Science and Practice, 2011
Rueger, S. Y., Lovejoy, M. C., Katz, R., & Risser, H. J.

Effects of stress, attributional style, and perceived parental support on depressive symptoms in early adolescence: A prospective analysis. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 2011
Rueger, S. Y. & Malecki, C. K.

Relationship between multiple sources of perceived social support and psychological and academic adjustment in early adolescence: Comparisons across gender. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2010
Rueger, S. Y., Malecki, C. K., & Demaray, M. K.

Group administration of the Children’s Attributional Style Interview. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 2007
Rueger, S. Y., & Malecki, C. M.