Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 64–72 | Cite as

Teaching Behavior and Emerging Adults’ Depressive Symptoms: Effect of Perceived Observer-Model Similarity

  • Patrick PösselEmail author
  • Rosamond J. Smith
Original Paper


Depression rates increase from 2% during childhood, to 22–27% during adolescence, and 50% during college. Previous studies showed an association between teaching behavior and students’ depressive symptoms; however, no research has examined whether all schoolteachers are equally influential in this relation. Social cognitive theory states that an observer’s perceived similarity to a model increases the observer’s ability to learn from that model. Thus, we hypothesized that the association between teaching behavior and students’ depressive symptoms would be strongest with schoolteachers that students perceived as most similar to them. In a retrospective study, a sample of 330 college freshmen aged 18 to 20 (M = 18.31; 56.7% female; 76.7% identifying as White, 9.7% as Black, 4.5% Asian American, 4.5% Latino/a, 3.9% Biracial, and 0.6% not providing information regarding race) completed the Teaching Behavior Questionnaire (TBQ) for the schoolteacher from throughout their schooling whom they perceived to be either most similar or least similar to themselves, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies – Depression Scale (CES-D). As predicted, path analyses showed that instructional (p < 0.01), organizational (p < 0.01), and socio-emotional teaching behaviors (p < 0.05) of the most similar schoolteachers were significantly related to students’ depressive symptoms, while these teaching behaviors from least similar schoolteachers were not. Conversely, negative teaching behavior was associated with depressive symptoms independent of teachers’ perceived similarity (p < 0.05). Future longitudinal and experimental studies are needed to replicate our findings.


Depression Teaching behavior Teacher-student similarity Social cognitive theory Middle adolescence Late adolescence 


Author Contributions

PP: Designed and executed the study, assisted with the data analyses, and collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. RJS: analyzed the data and wrote the first drafts of the manuscript.


This study was funded by the University of Louisville College of Education and Human Development Research and Faculty Development Grant.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10826_2018_1250_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Supplementary Information


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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