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Teacher–Child Relationships and the Development of Academic and Behavioral Skills During Elementary School: A Within- and Between-Child Analysis


  • This study was conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Research Network supported by NICHD through a cooperative agreement that calls for scientific collaboration between the grantees and the NICHD staff. The authors thank Joan Vondra, Heather Bachman, and Susan Campbell for comments to previous versions of this manuscript. Any errors that remain are those of the authors. Special thanks is also extended to the children and families who participated in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care.

concerning this article should be addressed to Carolina Maldonado-Carreño, Department of Psychology, Universidad de Los Andes, Carrera 1a Este #18A-10, Bogotá, Colombia. Electronic mail may be sent to


Despite recent growth in research highlighting the potential of teacher–child relationships to promote children’s development during the early years of school, questions remain about the importance of these relationships across elementary school. Using data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (= 1,364), this study examines between- and within-child associations between teacher–child relationship quality and children’s academic achievement and behavior problems from kindergarten (ages 4–6 years) through 5th grade (ages 9–11 years). Results suggest that increases in teacher–child relationship quality are associated with improvements in teacher-reported academic skills and reductions in behavior problems consistently throughout elementary school. As children progressed from kindergarten through fifth grade, the importance of teacher–child relationship quality is unchanging.