Development of student–teacher relationships in rural early elementary classrooms

Kathleen Cranley Gallagher, Kirsten Kainz, Lynne Vernon-Feagans, Kelley Mayer White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


An increasing body of literature documents associations between student–teacher relationships, children's academic success, and children's social competence in school. Less is known about characteristics and processes involved in the quality of relationships between students and teachers, and little research has examined these issues with populations of young students and teachers living in rural communities. The current study examined the relationships between rural kindergarten and first-grade students and their teachers in spring of the school year, predicted by child demographic factors, child process factors, and teacher characteristics. Using a multi-level model to account for clustering of children in classrooms, children's behavior and literacy skills were examined as contributors to the teachers’ perceptions of the developing teacher–student relationship, focusing on their potential to mediate associations between more distal characteristics and teacher–student relationships. Controlling for relationship conflict in fall, boys and African American students were more likely to have relationships with teachers that were higher in conflict in spring. When behavior and literacy skills measures were added to the model, children's behavior mediated the effect of gender, such that behavior problems accounted for much of the variance in student–teacher conflict associated with gender. However, neither behavior problems nor literacy skills mediated the effects of minority status on conflict; African American students had poorer relationships with teachers regardless of behavior or literacy skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-528
Number of pages9
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • African American
  • Behavior problems
  • Early education
  • Gender
  • Literacy skills
  • Student–teacher relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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