Alt Title

Role of withdrawn behavioral subtypes and the teacher-child relationship in early school adjustment

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Waas, Gregory A.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Teacher-student relationships--Illinois--De Kalb; Preschool children--Illinois--De Kalb--Psychology


The effect of children’s behavior and the quality of the teacher-child relationship have been identified as potential influences on school adjustment. However, few studies have sought to examine the importance of teacher support as it relates to the early school adjustment of withdrawn children, and no research has considered the school adjustment of children representing more recently identified subtypes of withdrawn behavior (i.e., asocial, anxious-fearful, and excluded). Moreover, little research has been conducted using rigorous statistical methods to identify and group individuals into withdrawn subgroups, and no such studies have investigated the possible emergence of withdrawn behavioral subtypes among veiy young children. This study extended previous research in this area by utilizing a cluster analysis to identify subtypes of withdrawn behavior among preschool students. Additionally, the associations between subtypes of withdrawn behavior and aspects of the teacher-child relationship and school adjustment were investigated. Of particular interest was the potential moderating effect of a positive teacher-child relationship on the school adjustment of specific withdrawn subgroups (i.e., anxious-fearful and excluded) believed to be at the greatest risk of a maladaptive school adjustment. Participants in the study included 489 preschool children between the ages of 36 and 71 months (mean age 55.09 months) from seven center-based programs in DeKalb, Illinois, and the western suburbs of Chicago. Results of the cluster analysis indicated the presence of three clusters, labeled as asocial-excluded, anxious-fearful, and disorganized-excluded. Findings demonstrated differences in school adjustment and the teacher-child relationship associated with child behavior, age, and gender. In some cases, these differences were distinct for the specific withdrawn subgroups, and interactions were found between behavior factors and the other variables of interest. Moreover, it was shown that closeness and conflict in the teacher-child relationship moderated school liking for withdrawn children overall, and conflict additionally moderated school liking for children in the anxious-fearful subgroup in particular. Results from this study have implications for assessment and early intervention with children who are at risk for problematic adjustment to the school environment.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [121]-131).


vii, 180 pages




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