Adult-Child Relationships in Preschool: Perceptions, Contributors to Change, and Associated Child Outcomes

Hartz, Karyn, Clinical Psychology - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Williford, Amanda, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Sheras, Peter, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation extended the literature base on adult-child relationships during early childhood and within the preschool context. Study 1 examined how children's negative emotionality moderated the links between both maternal and teacher sensitivity and children's kindergarten behavior problems. Study 1 results indicated that children's relationships with adults across multiple contexts of early childhood development interacted to predict children's internalizing and externalizing behavior. Adult sensitivity was differentially linked to outcomes for children high in early negative emotionality compared to children low in negative emotionality. Study 2 examined change in teachers' perceptions of the teacher-child relationship during one year of preschool. Results indicated that both a child's classroom engagement and a teacher's characteristics were associated with changes in the teacher's perception of his/her relationship with that child. Study 3 extended the limited research on preschool children's perceptions of the teacher-child relationship by examining the reliability and validity of children's relationship perceptions on two measures-a structured interview and a representational drawing. Study 3 findings indicated that in our sample of children as young as three years old with behavior problems, the measure structures were consistent with prior uses with slightly older children. Further, children's relationship perceptions were associated in expected directions with child characteristics, teacher's emotional support and children's classroom interactions. Taken together, these three studies contribute to our understanding of how and under what circumstances adult-child relationships are linked to children's outcomes, contributors to perceptions of teacher-child relationships, and how the teacher-child relationship can be measured.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
teacher-child relationships, mother-child relationships
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