Macquarie University
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Disruptive students' relationships with their teachers in the first three years of school

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posted on 2022-03-28, 01:57 authored by Kevin F. McGrath
Student-teacher relationships comprise a critically important aspect of the elementary classroom. How disruptive students and their teachers experience the emotional quality of those relationships, however, is poorly understood. I examine this emotional quality in three ways. First, I used a drawing task to compare how disruptive and well-behaved students, aged 5-8 years old (N = 51), represented the emotional quality of their relationships with different teachers. Although boys portrayed greater negativity than girls, there was no effect of student behaviour. Disruptive and well-behaved students portrayed equally positive relationships. Second, I used a speech sample task to compare teachers' (N = 47) emotional and relational expressions when speaking about their relationships with those same students. In contrast to the findings for students,there was a significant effect for behaviour. Teachers used a more negative emotional and relational tone when speaking about disruptive students. Lastly, using teachers' speech samples I identified 'complicated' relationships (high in expressed conflict and closeness) with eight disruptive students. Examining the characteristics that might facilitate closeness, despite high conflict, I identify teachers' causal attributions and emotional competence. Together these findings yield strong implications for elementary teachers' relationships with young disruptive students and for the emotional climate of the classroom.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Literature review -- Chapter 3. Methods -- Chapter 4. Students' drawings of themselves with their teachers -- Chapter 5. Teachers' emotional and relational tone -- Chapter 6. A qualitative investigation of 'complicated' relationships -- Chapter 7. General discussion and conclusion -- References -- Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 156-169 Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, School of Education

Department, Centre or School

School of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Penny Van Bergen

Additional Supervisor 1

Naomi Sweller


Copyright Kevin F. McGrath 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (vii, 178 pages)

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