Longitudinal trends and year-to-year fluctuations in student–teacher conflict and closeness: Associations with aggressive behavior problems

Phyllis Lee, Karen L. Bierman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Longitudinal research suggests that student–teacher relationships characterized by elevated (or increasing) conflict and low (or decreasing) closeness promote heightened aggression in elementary school. However, prior research has not explored fluctuations in the quality of student–teacher relationships across school years, which may also impact students. This study applied a new methodology to determine whether year-to-year fluctuations in student–teacher conflict or closeness also predicted increased student aggression. 154 children were followed from Head Start preschools through elementary school. Early elementary teachers (kindergarten through third grade) rated the quality of conflict and closeness with students. Fifth grade teachers rated student aggression. Regression analyses revealed that year-to-year fluctuations in student–teacher conflict, along with mean levels of student–teacher conflict, each made unique contributions to fifth grade aggression, controlling for baseline aggression. In addition, for students with low aggression at kindergarten entry, year-to-year fluctuations in student–teacher closeness predicted increased aggression. Possible mechanisms accounting for the detrimental effects of fluctuations in student–teacher relationship quality are discussed, along with implications for practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of School Psychology
StatePublished - Oct 2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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