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Perceptions of the Impact of Early Childhood Teacher Turnover on Social Emotional Skills and Classroom Climate: A Qualitative Examination

Jennifer A Sturgeon, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


There is extensive research that supports the idea that children from low socioeconomic homes begin kindergarten behind their peers (Lamy, 2013). Through early childhood education programs, such as Head Start, young children living in poverty have access to high quality childcare opportunities that will prepare them for kindergarten. Stable relationships with adults provide a predictable and trusting environment, and the interactions between teachers and young children that take place in early childhood settings are essential for social emotional growth. However, teacher turnover continues to be a widespread concern in the field of early childhood, particularly with infants and toddlers. Teacher turnover makes it challenging for a child to form a strong, healthy bond with an adult. By examining the perceptions of administrators and teachers in an Early Head Start center, this qualitative study explores the impact of teacher turnover on the social emotional growth of toddlers as well as the classroom climate. Emerging from the focus group discussions of the child and classroom assessments was the discovery that teacher turnover has a significant impact on the social emotional development of toddlers, particularly in the area of self-regulation. In addition, this study shows that early childhood teacher turnover can lead to a chaotic classroom environment and a decrease in learning. Also included in this study is an examination of the motivation for early childhood teachers to stay in their roles. The study found that the three motivating factors for early childhood teacher retention are most importantly, the strength of the leadership staff, then, the mission to serve children and families, and finally, compensation. This study emphasizes the need for young children to have consistent teachers in their lives and advocates for further research that examines the relationship between leadership and teacher retention in early childhood.

Subject Area

Early childhood education|Educational leadership|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Sturgeon, Jennifer A, "Perceptions of the Impact of Early Childhood Teacher Turnover on Social Emotional Skills and Classroom Climate: A Qualitative Examination" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI27667429.