Background Research repeatedly showed young children's aggressive behaviour to predict relationship difficulties with the teacher.
Aims To examine a possible mediating variable in this process and in the stability of relationship difficulties across the school year, namely teacher perceived control over child behaviour.
Sample The sample consisted of 139 Belgian kindergartners and their teachers.
Method Data were collected throughout kindergarten at three measurement occasions: children's aggressive behaviour was measured by means of a peer nomination procedure during the first trimester, teacher perceived control over child behaviour was assessed by means of a teacher questionnaire during the second trimester, and teacher–child conflict was measured by means of a teacher questionnaire during the first and third trimesters. Correlations among all study variables were calculated and different models were estimated and compared by means of structural equation modelling.
Results Teacher perceived control completely mediated the relationship between aggressive behaviour and teacher–child conflict (after controlling for the concurrent association between aggressive behaviour and conflict, and the stability of conflict). In addition, teacher perceived control accounted for part of the stability in conflict across the school year.
Conclusions Teacher perceived control over child behaviour has been found to act as a mediating mechanism between child aggressive behaviour and teacher–child conflict at the beginning of kindergarten and teacher–child conflict at the end of the year.