Behavioral risk, teacher-child relationships, and social skill development across middle childhood: A child-by-environment analysis of change

Daniel Berry, Erin O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purposes of the present study were to examine the growth trajectories of children's social skills from kindergarten through sixth grade, and to investigate the roles of early behavior problems and teacher-child relationships in children's social skill development, using data from phases I, II, and III of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. There were four main findings. First, on average, children showed curvilinear social skill growth trajectories from kindergarten to sixth grade, with periods of marked acceleration in the early and later elementary years and a period of slight deceleration in the late elementary years. Second, children with higher levels of preschool internalizing behavior problems demonstrated lower levels of kindergarten social skills and qualitatively different social skill growth trajectories than their less-internalizing peers over time. Third, children with higher-quality teacher-child relationships demonstrated greater social skills from kindergarten through sixth grade than their peers with lower-quality relationships. The magnitude of the effect for teacher-child relationships increased as children aged and was marginally stronger for children with lower levels of early internalizing problems. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Volume31
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Behavior problems
  • Early childhood
  • Growth model
  • Middle childhood
  • Social skill development
  • Teacher-child relationships

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