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Correlates of Closeness and Conflict in Early Elementary Teacher-Student Relationships

Wolfson, Mary (2009) Correlates of Closeness and Conflict in Early Elementary Teacher-Student Relationships. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the joint and collective contributions of student and teacher factors to observed variance in reports of conflict and closeness in first and second grade teacher-student relationships (STR). This study uses two data sets previously collected from elementary schools in the greater Pittsburgh area, to examine the association between child and teacher factors with the relationship qualities of closeness and conflict in early elementary teacher child relationships. Children from each sample were followed from 1st to 2nd grade (N=96 and N=44 respectively), and data were collected from parents and teachers, as well as through direct observation in each academic year. Parents reported on child externalizing behavior using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) (Achenbach, 1981), and sociability using the Buss and Plomin Emotionality Activity Level and Sociability Inventory (EAS) (Buss & Plomin, 1984). Teachers reported on the quality of their relationship each participating student using the Student Teacher Relationship Survey (STRS) (Pianta, 2001). Additionally, observations were made of teacher classroom behavior using the Arnett Caregiver interaction scale. Child externalizing behavior and teacher sensitivity, detachment and punitiveness were tested for association with 1st and 2nd grade teacher reported conflict. Child sociability and teacher sensitivity, detachment and punitiveness were tested for association with 1st and 2nd grade teacher reported closeness. These factors were also used to predict change in teacher student relationship quality between 1st and 2nd grades. Results showed student externalizing behavior to be positively associated with contemporaneous relationship conflict, and teacher detachment and punitiveness to be associated inversely with contemporaneous closeness. Teacher sensitivity and student externalizing behavior interacted when predicting change in relationship conflict. Teacher sensitivity and change in teacher sensitivity both predicted change in relationship closeness. These results both replicate and extend the body of existing research on teacher student relationship quality. The association of child externalizing behavior to relationship conflict was replicated, although the observed effect size was significantly different from previous findings. The contribution of teacher classroom behavior to the prediction of variance in relationship closeness is unique to this study. Additionally, the prediction of change in relationship quality using student and teacher factors, as well as the joint contribution of each, is an extension of existing research. Results are discussed in terms of functional avoidance by the teacher and the student of difficult behaviors exhibited by each other. Implications for early elementary teacher training and preparation are also discussed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairVondra,
Committee MemberRitchie,
Committee MemberBagnato,
Committee MemberMcConnaha, Wendellwmcconn@pitt.eduWMCCONN
Date: 17 June 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 8 April 2009
Approval Date: 17 June 2009
Submission Date: 24 April 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Psychology in Education
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: child factors; early childhood; early elementary; teacher factors; teacher sensitivity; teacher-student relationships
Other ID:, etd-04242009-003258
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:42
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:42


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