Date of this Version
Abstract This study examines the mediating role of student–teacher relationship quality (conflict and closeness) in grades 4, 5, and 6 on the relation between background characteristics, difficult temperament at age 4½ and risky behavior in 6th grade. The longitudinal sample of participants (N = 1156) was from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Structural equation modeling was used to estimate paths from (a) background characteristics to student–teacher relationship quality and risky behavior, (b) temperament to student–teacher relationship quality and risky behavior, and (c) student–teacher relationship quality to risky behavior. Findings indicate that students’ family income, gender, receipt of special services, and more difficult temperament were associated with risky behavior. In addition, student–teacher conflict was a mediator. Students with more difficult temperaments were more likely to report risky behavior and to have conflict in their relationships with teachers. More conflict predicted more risky behavior. Closer student–teacher relationships were associated with less risky behavior. Results suggest negative relationships, specifically student–teacher relationships, may increase the risk that certain adolescents will engage in risky behavior.