A major limitation of much of the previous research in this field is that the quality of student-teacher relationships was only assessed at a single point in time.It is important to examine the pattern of children's student-teacher relationship quality over time as a measurement at a single point in time does not provide information about whether children's relationship quality is improving, declining, or remaining stable over time.
However, it is not known whether the effects found by O’Connor et al.() would be similar when examining mental health outcomes earlier in childhood (e.g., second year of school), or when investigating more specific aspects of mental health outcomes, such as hyperactivity, conduct problems, peer problems, emotional symptoms, or prosocial behaviour. () is also limited by examining mental health outcomes based on only parent-ratings of behaviour in the home setting, and by only adjusting for a limited range of likely confounding influences (gender, family income-to-needs, and maternal attachment).Six longitudinal studies all conducted in the United States have found that healthy trajectories of student-teacher relationship quality are significantly associated with fewer externalising behaviour problems (O’Connor et al. Only one study to date has examined children's trajectories of student-teacher relationship quality and mental health problems during the period covering the transition into formal schooling. () used longitudinal analyses to identify different trajectory groups based on (a) conflict and then (b) closeness in the teacher-child relationship from pre-kindergarten (age 4.5) to the fifth grade of school in the United States.They found that children in trajectory groups characterised by high or inclining levels of student-teacher conflict (16%) demonstrated higher levels of externalising behaviours in fifth grade (middle-childhood) than those in the low-conflict group.Highlighting the bidirectional influences between an individual and their social context, there is theoretical and empirical indication that mental health problems and student-teacher relationships form part of a reciprocal transactional cycle, whereby children with early behaviour problems experience more barriers to forming positive relationships with teachers and subsequently experience more student-teacher conflicts, which in turn leads to more mental health problems, and so on (Doumen et al. There is also evidence that children seem to internalise negative interaction messages from teachers into their sense of self, with child self-esteem acting as an intervening mechanism linking student-teacher conflict with subsequent behaviour problems (Doumen et al. For example, a young child with emerging mental health problems (such as being withdrawn and shy or requiring regular behaviour management for misbehaviour) may be more challenging for a teacher to connect and engage with in a positive way.
This lack of a positive connection, exhibited through less closeness and more conflict between the teacher and the child, may lead to diminishing self-esteem in the child, which in turn exacerbates mental health problems.Teachers play an important role in the lives of children.Whilst parent relationships may be the most salient for very young children, the influence of teachers escalates with the increasing amounts of time young children spend in formal educational settings (Baker et al. One such critical period is the transition from preschool into formal schooling, which is a time of new academic challenges in a more structured learning environment, involving complex changes in children's roles, responsibilities, and relationships (Moore ).This longitudinal study classified groups of children experiencing different trajectories of student-teacher relationship quality over the transition from preschool into school, and determined the strength of the association between different student-teacher relationship trajectories and childhood mental health problems in the second year of primary school.A community sample of 460 Australian children were assessed in preschool (age 4), the first school year (age 5), and second school year (age 6).Another important factor is that it is not known whether the findings from the O’Connor et al.