Negative Attention from Teachers Increases Negative Behavior

Teacher resolving fight between studentsNegative feedback from teachers can increase concentration issues, disruptions, and overall negative behavior in students, according to a new study published in Assessment for Effective Intervention. Teachers may use negative feedback in an attempt to curtail problematic behavior among children, but the study suggests this approach has the reverse effect.

How Negative Teacher Attention Harms Students

For the study, Wendy Reinke—an associate professor of educational, school, and counseling psychology at the University of Missouri College of Education—and her colleagues developed a tool for monitoring student-teacher interactions. The Brief Student-Teacher Classroom Interaction Observation (ST-CIO) tool requires a five-minute observation period to assess whether an interaction is negative or positive.

Using the ST-CIO, researchers observed 53 teachers’ interactions with 896 students in kindergarten through third grade. They found the tool was able to capture information similar to that captured by longer observations, suggesting the ST-CIO might be a good way for principals, researchers, and others to quickly assess student-teacher interactions.

The researchers then observed a correlation between teacher-student interactions and student behavior. Students who received more negative than positive feedback from their teachers during the year had a significant increase in disruptive behavior, concentration difficulties, and problems with emotion regulation by the end of the school year. Students who received positive feedback saw no such increase and were more likely to engage in positive, prosocial behaviors in the future.

The Role of Teachers in Student Mental Health

The study notes that previous research has linked student-teacher interactions to both academic and behavioral outcomes. Most students spend six to nine hours each day with their teachers, which may be more time than some students spend with any other adult.

Particularly among students who come from struggling families, whose parents are uninvolved, or whose families are abusive, teachers may fill an important void. Teachers may also be the first to notice signs of learning difficulties and mental health diagnoses such as attention-deficit hyperactivity.


  1. Negative attention from teachers can lead to more negative student behaviors. (2011, August 8). Retrieved from
  2. Reinke, W. M., Herman, K. C., & Newcomer, L. (2016). The brief student-teacher classroom interaction observation: Using dynamic indicators of behaviors in the classroom to predict outcomes and inform practice. Assessment for Effective Intervention. doi:10.1177/1534508416641605

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  • Julius

    August 16th, 2016 at 10:21 AM

    There will always be those children though who are sadly seeking out any kind of attention that they can get whether it is positive or negative. They have a need for getting adult attention and to them it doesn’t matter whether that is good or it is bad. Now I do agree that the negative kind probably does increase the negative behavior that you then receive in return. I think that too often the kids give up on themselves once they begin to feel that the teachers have too, so they start behaving like they think that others expect them to behave.

  • Donnie

    August 16th, 2016 at 3:33 PM

    But there are always those few kids who will do anything to push your buttons. They know what your triggers are and they will push you right to the brink if they can.

  • Greg

    August 17th, 2016 at 1:56 PM

    The even more unfortunate thing is that when this happens there are many parents at home who then tell the kid to misbehave and they don’t have to do what the teacher tells them to do. I think that there are so many times a true lack of communication between the parents and the students and the teachers and that just causes every single thing to break down and to go wrong.
    Our kids all deserve better than this but I think that there are parents and teachers who both are so proud and stand their ground and then the kids get caught somewhere in the middle of it all.

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