Teacher-child Relationships and Children’s Achievement in Elementary School: A Within and Between-child Analysis
Erin O’Connor

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



New York University

Primary Discipline

Human Development
Supporting children’s achievement in elementary school is vital as children’s achievement trajectories tend to be stable after this time period (e.g. Alexander, Entwisle & Kabbani, 2001). Teacher-child relationships high in closeness and low in conflict appear to offer a naturally occurring support for all children’s achievement and an intervention for children at-risk due to family poverty (Pianta, 1999; Pianta & Walsh, 1996). No studies, however, have examined the developmental effects of teacher-child relationships on achievement across the elementary school years. Furthermore, researchers speculate that teacher-child relationships are linked with child and teacher behaviors in the classroom that, in turn, are associated with achievement (e.g. Pianta, 1999). These mechanisms though have not been examined over the course of elementary school. Because research can only inform policy and practice when it demonstrates what works, how it works, under what conditions and for which children, longitudinal studies of teacher-child relationships and elementary school achievement with a focus on interacting and intervening processes are needed. In the current study, I will examine changes in closeness and conflict in teacher-child relationships and achievement from first through fifth grade. I will also explore the moderating role of family poverty in associations between relational closeness and conflict and achievement and the mechanisms through which relationships influence achievement. I will conduct these analyses with the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development dataset. Results will demonstrate whether relationships with teachers can support children’s elementary school achievement and buffer children from the negative effects of poverty on achievement, as well as elucidate the mechanisms by which teacher-child relationships are most likely to impact children’s achievement.
About Erin O’Connor

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