Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 1–21 | Cite as

A Closer Look at Teacher–Child Relationships and Classroom Emotional Context in Preschool

  • Christine N. Lippard
  • Karen M. La Paro
  • Heather L. Rouse
  • Danielle A. Crosby
Original Paper



Children’s early classroom experiences, particularly their interpersonal interactions with teachers, have implications for their academic achievement and classroom behavior. Teacher–child relationships and classroom interactions are both important aspects of children’s early classroom experiences, but they are not typically considered together in studies of early childhood classrooms. The bioecological model suggests that both uniquely impact children’s development.


The objective of this study was to examine the joint impact of individual teacher–child relationships reported by the teacher and observed classroom interactions to identify associations between these and children’s outcomes.


Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth cohort, multiple regression was employed to test the hypothesis that teacher–child relationships and classroom interactions are uniquely related to children’s classroom behavior and academic achievement. Further, a moderation model was tested to examine the moderating impact of teacher–child relationships on the association between classroom interactions and children’s outcomes.


Teacher–child relationships were related to children’s concurrent academic achievement and classroom behavior, and to children’s classroom behavior assessed one year later. No main effects of classroom interactions were identified; however, teacher–child relationships moderated the associations between classroom interactions and children’s preschool classroom behavior.


Findings suggest that teacher–child relationships are important for children’s development in classrooms, even after accounting for classroom interactions. Professional development for teachers and measurement in classroom research should address teacher–child relationships in addition to classroom interactions.


Teacher–child interactions Teacher–child relationships Preschool 



The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort (ECLS—B) was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with several federal health, education, and human services agencies. The National Center for Health Statistics, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Services, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of Minority Health, the Office of Special Education Programs, and the Office of Indian Education are working collaboratively with NCES on this study. Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The first, third, and fourth authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The second author acknowledges that she is a co-author of one of the discussed measures.

Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine N. Lippard
    • 1
  • Karen M. La Paro
    • 2
  • Heather L. Rouse
    • 1
  • Danielle A. Crosby
    • 2
  1. 1.Human Development and Family StudiesIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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