Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Exploring Teacher Factors That Influence Teacher-Child Relationships in Head Start: A Grounded Theory

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Exploring Teacher Factors That Influence Teacher-Child Relationships in Head Start: A Grounded Theory

Article excerpt

The transition from home to preschool marks significant changes in children's early life (Zinsser, Bailey, Curby, Denham, & Bassett, 2013). During the preschool period, teachers play a critical role in helping children navigate through this new experience (Garner, Mahatmya, Moses, & Bolt, 2014). Additionally, given the growing number of working mothers and single-parent households (Snyder & Dillow, 2012), more and more young children are spending longer periods of time with early childhood caregivers or teachers (Zinsser et al., 2013). As a result, these teachers play an increasingly important role in various aspects of young children's school readiness (Driscoll & Pianta, 2010). Children's relationships with teachers constitute a major part of their early school experiences, and the quality of teacher-child relationships can be characterized by closeness (supportiveness, warmth) and conflict (Pianta, Steinberg, & Rollins, 1995). The quality of teacher-child relationships is linked to children's social-emotional development (O'Connor, Dearing, Collins, 2011), peer reputation (Garner et al., 2014), academic achievement (McCormick, O'Connor, Cappella, & McClowry, 2013), and school adjustment (Silva et al., 2011). Furthermore, the quality of early teacher-child relationship seems to have a greater impact on children from impoverished backgrounds, as compared to their more affluent peers (Driscoll & Pianta, 2010).

Despite the growing amount of research on teacher-child relationships (Eccles & Roeser, 1999; Garner et al., 2014), empirical attention to teacher-child relationships at the preschool level is lacking. There is a particular gap in research on preschool teachers who serve children from very low SES backgrounds, such as those enrolled in Head Start. Moreover, we noticed the absence of naturalistic research about this subject. The majority of studies about teacher-child relationships are quantitative, little is known regarding preschool teachers' perceptions of the mechanism through which the influential factors may affect teacher-child relationships. The purpose of this study therefore was to explore the roles of influential factors among teacher-child relationships from teachers' perspectives and to pave the way for further investigations. Considering that research studies in this field are heavily quantitative, we examined teacher-child relationships through a qualitative lens. The following section provides a brief review of the extant empirical literature about teacher factors (i.e., education, stress, and self-efficacy) and social-ecological factors (i.e., parental and organizational support) that influence the quality of teacher-child relationships.

Teacher Factors

Teacher-child relationship is a complex concept; a number of studies have revealed factors that are related to the quality of teacher-child relationships (e.g., Li-Grining et al., 2010). These factors can be classified into three dimensions: attributes of teachers (Pianta & Hamre, 2009), attributes of children (O'Connor et al., 2011), and social-ecological factors (Hamre et al., 2012). The present research examined teacher and social-ecology factors; however, all three areas are briefly reviewed in the following section.

Attributes of teachers. The quality of teacher-child relationships is associated with teachers' attributes such as education level, teacher-perceived stress, and self-efficacy (Ho, Guven, & Bagnato, 2012; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007). A number of research studies have provided evidence that high teacher education levels, lower levels of teacher-perceived stress, and higher teacher self-efficacy are related to more harmonious teacher-child relationships (e.g., Choi & Dobbs-Oates, 2016; Zinsser et al., 2013).

Teacher education is an important predictor of the quality of preschool teacher-child relationships (Howes, James, & Ritchie, 2003). …

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