This study examines the mediating role of student-teacher relationship quality (conflict and closeness) in grades 4, 5, and 6 on the relation between background characteristics, difficult temperament at age 4 1/2 and risky behavior in 6th grade. The longitudinal sample of participants (N=1156) was from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Structural equation modeling was used to estimate paths from (a) background characteristics to student-teacher relationship quality and risky behavior, (b) temperament to student-teacher relationship quality and risky behavior, and (c) student-teacher relationship quality to risky behavior. Findings indicate that students' family income, gender, receipt of special services, and more difficult temperament were associated with risky behavior. In addition, student-teacher conflict was a mediator. Students with more difficult temperaments were more likely to report risky behavior and to have conflict in their relationships with teachers. More conflict predicted more risky behavior. Closer student-teacher relationships were associated with less risky behavior. Results suggest negative relationships, specifically student-teacher relationships, may increase the risk that certain adolescents will engage in risky behavior.
Copyright 2010 Society for the Study of School Psychology. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.