School Mental Health

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 754–765 | Cite as

Teacher Caring as a Protective Factor: The Effects of Behavioral/Emotional Risk and Teacher Caring on Office Disciplinary Referrals in Middle School

  • Emily K. GallagherEmail author
  • Bridget V. Dever
  • Craig Hochbein
  • George J. DuPaul
Original Paper


Risk for behavioral/emotional problems in adolescence is a significant predictor of negative student outcomes, including lower academic achievement and future disciplinary problems. Latinx students are often overrepresented in school disciplinary practices, highlighting the need for further research specifically within this population. Based on the framework of resilience, students’ relationships with teachers may serve as protective factors against behavioral problems for those who are at elevated levels of risk for problematic outcomes. The current study examined associations and interactions among risk for behavioral/emotional problems, office disciplinary referrals (ODRs), and teacher caring within a sample of 1151 predominantly Latinx middle school students. Higher levels of behavioral/emotional risk and lower levels of teacher caring predicted more ODRs, as expected. An interaction between behavioral/emotional risk and teacher caring suggested that the effect of teacher caring was even more pronounced for students who did not present with elevated levels of behavioral/emotional risk; students with normal levels of risk who reported higher levels of teacher caring received significantly fewer ODRs than those students with normal risk who reported lower levels of teacher caring. Implications for practitioners are discussed, with emphasis placed on the importance of culturally responsive practices.


Behavioral/emotional risk Behavioral problems Latinx students Teacher–student relationships Office disciplinary referrals 



This study was funded by a Lehigh University Faculty Innovation Grant (FIG).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors all 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 national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

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


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lehigh UniversityBethlehemUSA

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