Teacher- and Child-perceived Relationship Quality in Upper Elementary School and Child Academic and Behavioral Outcomes

Madeline Alyssa Barry, Fordham University


The quality of the relationship that children form with their classroom teachers during their preschool and formal schooling years has significant implications for their developmental outcomes. Specifically, teacher-child relationship quality influences children’s later school success, with relationship problems as early as kindergarten predicting poor academic performance in eighth grade. The influence of teacher-child relationships on children’s social-emotional and behavioral outcomes has also been examined to a lesser extent. Elevated levels of teacher-child conflict have been found to predict aggression, whereas relationship closeness predicts higher social competence. However, research to date has primarily focused on preschool and kindergarten-aged students and has relied largely upon teacher-reported relationship quality, with comparatively less research on relationship quality in the upper elementary grades, and how children’s perceptions of the relationship are associated with their academic and behavioral development. Few studies have simultaneously examined teacher-child relationship quality as perceived both by teachers and children, and whether their respective perceptions are associated with children’s academic and behavioral outcomes to similar or different degrees, and whether they are differentially related to these outcomes for children at elevated levels of academic or behavioral risk. Using a sample of 334 third and fourth grade teachers and their 5,112 students, the current study seeks to examine how teachers’ and children’s perceptions of closeness in their relationship in the middle of the academic year predicts children’s academic and behavioral outcomes at the end of the year, and whether these associations are moderated by initial academic and behavioral risk statuses. High reports of relationship closeness by children and their teachers were found to significantly predict child ELA and Math achievement, with child behavioral risk significantly moderating both academic outcomes. Within-reporter effects were found for the direct effects of teacher and child closeness on teacher- and child-reported aggression, respectively; teacher-reported closeness also significantly predicted child reports of aggressive behavior when moderated by behavioral risk. Although a cross-reporter effect was detected for child-reported closeness on teacher-reported social competence, no significant moderations were found. Child reports of the relationship should be equally considered when assessing teacher-child relationship quality and child outcomes, especially in behaviorally at-risk children.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Education|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Barry, Madeline Alyssa, "Teacher- and Child-perceived Relationship Quality in Upper Elementary School and Child Academic and Behavioral Outcomes" (2019). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI22621469.