Educational Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Early Education and Development 17:2 (2006), 271–291; doi: 10.1207/s15566935eed1702_4 Copyright © 2006 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.; published by Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


Current educational policy emphasizes “school readiness” of young children with a premium placed on preschool interventions that facilitate academic and social readiness for children who have had limited learning experiences prior to kindergarten (Rouse, Brooks–Gunn, & McLanahan, 2005). The teacher–child relationship is viewed as a critical mechanism for the effectiveness of interventions (Girolametto, Weitzman, & Greenberg, 2003; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network, 2003). The purpose of this study was to determine how children’s temperament and language skills predict teacher–child relationship quality. The sample consisted of 99 at-risk preschool students. Three findings emerged: (a) bolder children with lower language complexity were more likely to have higher levels of conflict in their relationships with teachers, (b) shyer children with greater language complexity were more likely to have dependent relationships with their teachers, and (c) teacher effects accounted for more of the variance in conflictual and dependent teacher–child relationships compared to children’s behavioral inhibition and language complexity. This study shows that teacher–child relationships are multirelational. Individual differences in temperament and language skills affect teacher–child interactions, and ultimately, contribute to the effectiveness of classroom interventions. Such information helps to unpack the complexities of classroom quality by increasing awareness among practitioners of factors contributing to positive teacher–child relationships.