Elementary students’ effortful control and academic achievement: The mediating role of teacher–student relationship quality

Maciel M. Hernández, Carlos Valiente, Nancy Eisenberg, Rebecca H. Berger, Tracy Spinrad, Sarah K. VanSchyndel, Kassondra M. Silva, Jody Southworth, Marilyn Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


This study evaluated the association between effortful control in kindergarten and academic achievement one year later (N = 301), and whether teacher–student closeness and conflict in kindergarten mediated the association. Parents, teachers, and observers reported on children's effortful control, and teachers reported on their perceived levels of closeness and conflict with students. Students completed the passage comprehension and applied problems subtests of the Woodcock–Johnson tests of achievement, as well as a behavioral measure of effortful control. Analytical models predicting academic achievement were estimated using a structural equation model framework. Effortful control positively predicted academic achievement even when controlling for prior achievement and other covariates. Mediation hypotheses were tested in a separate model; effortful control positively predicted teacher–student closeness and strongly, negatively predicted teacher–student conflict. Teacher–student closeness and effortful control, but not teacher–student conflict, had small, positive associations with academic achievement. Effortful control also indirectly predicted higher academic achievement through its positive effect on teacher–student closeness and via its positive relation to early academic achievement. The findings suggest that teacher–student closeness is one mechanism by which effortful control is associated with academic achievement. Effortful control was also a consistent predictor of academic achievement, beyond prior achievement levels and controlling for teacher–student closeness and conflict, with implications for intervention programs on fostering regulation and achievement concurrently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-109
Number of pages12
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
StatePublished - Mar 3 2017


  • Academic achievement
  • Effortful control
  • Elementary school
  • Kindergarten
  • Teacher–student relationship quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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