Strong Teacher-Child Relationship Decreases Misconduct in Teen Boys

Conduct and behavioral issues are not uncommon during adolescence. Teens experience a phase of experimentation and try to test their boundaries during adolescence. New influences, new friends, and new school environments also impact the nature of a teen’s behavior during these significant developmental years. Many teens struggle as they try to find their own individuality and face problems with depression or anxiety. Others express their emotional uncertainty externally through risky behaviors such as substance misuse, sexual promiscuity, or conduct problems. Teenagers are also heavily influenced by the people in their lives during adolescence. Peers, family members, and teachers help shape the course a child will take. But how each of these characters affects the behavior of teens is not clearly understood.

In a recent study, Ming-Te Wang of the School of Education and the Department of Developmental Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh assessed data from 1,400 young people at age 13. The participants were evaluated for effortful control at baseline and then measured for levels of depression and parent-child conflict. Their teacher relationships were also evaluated. At age 18, all of the participants were assessed one more time for levels of misconduct. Wang analyzed how the teacher-child relationship and parent-child relationship each influenced depression and misconduct in the teens.

The study revealed that the participants with the lowest levels of effortful control and high parent conflict had the most significant levels of depression at age 13. Additionally, these same teens had the highest levels of misconduct at age 18. Wang also found that strong teacher-teen relationships helped insulate the teens from both depression and conduct issues, especially for boys with minimal effortful control at baseline. This effect was less significant for the girls, perhaps because girls rely more heavily on peer support than boys. Also, girls tend to place a higher value on personal relationships with friends and family members than boys do, which could increase the role these relationships play on psychological health. Wang says that the results of this study demonstrate that both parental and teacher relationships are important to teens for different reasons. Wang added, “In other words, teachers and parents seem to play relatively independent and distinct roles in the adolescent development of depressive symptoms.”

Wang, M.-T., Brinkworth, M., Eccles, J. (2012). Moderating effects of teacher–student relationship in adolescent trajectories of emotional and behavioral adjustment. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027916

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  • boomer


    June 21st, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    be careful- too many teen boys and women teachers hooking up these days and ending up on you tube

  • emily


    June 22nd, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    having a good relationship with your teacher is always a great thing.i can attest to that.there is nothing like having a trusted figure and maybe even a role model and a friend at a place outside your home especially if you’re the type who feels alienated in such settings.

  • AL


    June 22nd, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    haha good one Boomer
    However on a serious note, I know that most of us remember that one great teacher that we had who really could reach us, who could really make us care about doing well in school and who we wanted to please more than anyone else in the world. Every child deserves to have that kind of adult influence in their lives while they are at such an impressionable age. Maybe if they had that then this would keep so many of them out of trouble and ready to make a positive influenve on society instead of letting all of their talent and intellect go to waste.

  • Holland


    June 22nd, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Every young person needs to have someone to whom they can turn to and whom they can trust. For many of our children this is the parents and the role that they fill. But many young children do not have that kind of role model in a parent that we would hope for so many of them will turn to a classroom teacher. When that happens, and the teacher is willing to be the mentor that the child so desperately needs then this can be a wonderful experience for the both of them. This is an adult who can show this child that there is a way out, and that through hard work in school and in life this can be achieved. The student has the chance to work with someone who will push them to make their education and betterment of themselves a priority and to rise above the melancholy and drama that they could be faced with in their home lives. When it works it is a win-win situation.

  • constance peters

    constance peters

    June 23rd, 2012 at 6:21 AM

    And if I might add one more thing: the earlier these relationships are forged, then the better chance for avoiding this type of misconduct and poor behavior

  • Jennifer


    June 24th, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    For those out there who think that a teacher has life easy with summers off or the many other perks that you may think that we enjoy obviously do not take into account the multiple other roles that teachers are expected to fulfill.

    When I got into teaching it was not because I wanted to be a surrogate parent for those kids looking for that in the classroom, but I got into it because I love to learn and I wanted to share that with young people.

    What I quickly realized straight out of college is that sometimes you have to make sure that the very basic needs of your students are being met first before they will even give a hoot about learning anything!

    Do they have enough to eat? Do they have a place to sleep at night? Do they have clean clothes to wear that are not falling apart? Do they have someone to listen to them with their problems, their challenges, and their dreams? All of these things are things that I have had to make sure of, and I know that every other good teacher who cares about her students does too.

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