Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Teacher Characteristics as Predictors of Teacher-Student Relationships: Stress, Negative Affect, and Self-Efficacy

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Teacher Characteristics as Predictors of Teacher-Student Relationships: Stress, Negative Affect, and Self-Efficacy

Article excerpt

Students' misbehavior has been consistently linked to teachers' reports of stress. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether or not teacher stress, negative affect, and self-efficacy predict the quality of student-teacher relationships. Participants included 113 elementary (K-5th) teachers in a metropolitan area in the United States. A survey method was used to measure teacher perceptions in working with difficult students and their relationships with students. Negative teacher-student relationships were predicted by teacher stress. Significant correlations were found among negative affect, teacher stress and negative relationships. Implications for teacher support and continuing education issues are discussed.

With increasing empirical attention in the literature, the teacher-student relationship has been identified as a significant influence on overall school and behavioral adjustment (Baker, Terry, Bridger, & Winsor, 1997). Pianta, Steinberg and Rollins (1995) found that positive teacher-student relationships, defined as "warm, close, communicative," are linked to behavioral competence and better school adjustment. Other researchers found that conflict and dependency in teacher-student relationships are related to unfavorable outcomes such as a negative school attitude, school avoidance (Birch & Ladd, 1997) and hostile aggression (Howes, Hamilton, & Matheson, 1994). Resilience literature further indicates that when there is no emotional connection to a caregiver at home, supportive school experiences play a critical role in students' adaptations. More specifically, teachers who "provide emotional support, reward competence, and promote self-esteem" (p. 110) are considered to be one of the factors that decrease the vulnerability of high-risk students in response to stressful life events (Werner, 1990).

Given that teacher-student relationships have a significant influence on various outcomes, investigations into how the relationships are shaped and what determines the quality of those relationships are of great importance for intervention efforts to foster nurturing, warm relationships between teachers and students. So far, a number of student characteristics have been linked to teacher-student relationships. For example, students' social skills and low internalizing scores are positively related to warm, open relationships with kindergarten teachers (Pianta & Steinberg, 1992). Students' problem behaviors such as inattention, internalizing, and conduct problems are negatively correlated with the quality of teacher-student relationships (Pianta & Nimetz, 1991). Furthermore, disruptive, aggressive, resistant students are especially challenging to many teachers. They are frequently noted as a significant source of teacher stress (Boyle, Borg, Falzon, & Baglioni, 1995). Teacher interactions with these students tend to be critical and punishing in nature (Coie & Koeppl, 1990), and are often characterized by high conflict and low warmth (Itskowitz, Navon, & Strauss, 1988). Although the punishment following a student's problem behavior may be needed to reduce the likelihood of future bad behavior, the student's repeated exposure to punishment, especially in the absence of positive attention from teachers, is more likely to perpetuate a sense of alienation from teachers and school, which may in turn lead to intensified anger and defiance (Baker, 1999; Van Acker, Grant, & Henry, 1996).

Investigative efforts specific to teacher characteristics that may affect the quality of teacher-student relationships are scarce in the current literature. A few studies document the fact that teachers' attachment histories with their primary caregiver (Kesner, 2000) and teacher responsivity and involvement (Howes & Segal, 1993) predicted the quality of teacher-student relationships. It is not surprising that teachers who are emotionally responsive to students have better relationships with them. …

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