The teacher-child relationship and children's early school adjustment

Sondra H. Birch, Gary W. Ladd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1023 Scopus citations


The teacher-child relationship may serve important support functions for young children in their attempts to adjust to the school environment. A sample of kindergarten children (N = 206, mean age = 5.58 years) and their teachers participated in the present study, which was designed to examine how three distinct features of the teacher-child relationship (closeness, dependency, and conflict) were related to various aspects of children's school adjustment. Dependency in the teacher-child relationship emerged as a strong correlate of school adjustment difficulties, including poorer academic performance, more negative school attitudes, and less positive engagement with the school environment. In addition, teacher-rated conflict was associated with teachers' ratings of children's school liking, school avoidance, self-directedness, and cooperative participation in the classroom. Finally, teacher-child closeness was positively linked with children's academic performance, as well as teachers' ratings of school liking and self-directedness. The findings highlight the importance of considering various features of children's relationships with classroom teachers when examining young children's school adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-79
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of School Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • School adjustment
  • Teacher-child relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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