Emotionally Supportive Teacher-Student Interactions in Elementary School as Protective Factors for Young Children At-Risk for Behavior Problems

Crumpton, Howard, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Loper, Ann, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Many young children exhibit aggressive and disruptive behaviors at early ages. However, while aggressive behaviors are normative and serve as a way to communicate needs in the midst of developing verbal abilities, continued disruptive behavior can lead to stable or increasing levels of behavioral dysregulation, oppositionality and aggression. Young children who exhibit aggressive and disruptive behaviors are more likely to experience relational problems with parents, teachers, and peers, get expelled and show continued aggression into adolescence and, in some cases, adulthood.
Classroom environments that foster positive interactions among teachers and students appear to be promising protective factors for young children who continue to show disruptive behavior (Pianta, 1999). Given the risks associated with continued aggressive behavior into later developmental stages, more research is needed to determine the extent to which positive classroom interactions might ameliorate the risk of disruptive behaviors in young children.
A group of 1,364 children enrolled as participants in the NICHD SECCYD and were followed from birth to fifth grade. Demographic data were reported when children were one month old. Risk data were collected during the pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten time points. Moderating variables (classroom observation data) were collected throughout children’s elementary school experience (1st, 3rd and 5th grades). Outcome variables were collected during children’s fifth grade school year.
Results from correlational analyses and structural equation models indicated that early disruptive behavior is related to poor behavioral and academic outcomes later on. Results also indicated that classroom emotional support experienced throughout elementary school is positively associated with behavioral and academic outcomes. Multigroup analyses revealed that children in risk and no risk groups benefited equally from classroom emotional support. These findings have direct implications for teachers, teacher training and support, school policy and future research, as enhancing classroom quality shows great promise in addressing behavior problems and improving child developmental outcomes.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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