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Longitudinal associations between externalizing problems and student-teacher relationship quality for young children with ASD
The associations between student-teacher relationship (STR) quality and externalizing behavior problems in school were examined among 166 children with ASD (82% boys, ages 4-7 years) across three assessments over a 1.5-year period; IQs in the sample range from 50 to 139 ([mean] = 88.7). Unlike other non-ASD populations, the association between STR quality and externalizing problems was not transactional; instead, cross-lagged panel analyses supported a child-driven pathway whereby early teacher-reported behavior problems led to poorer relationship quality over time. Higher externalizing problems predicted increased student-teacher conflict from fall to spring of the same school year and predicted increased student-teacher conflict and decreased student-teacher closeness in the subsequent school year. Child behavior problems appear to drive changes in children's relationships with teachers that follow them across multiple teachers and classroom contexts. The association between early student-teacher relationship quality and subsequent externalizing problems was not moderated by cognitive ability or intellectual disability status. Findings suggest that interventions targeting early disruptive behavior problems may indirectly improve children's school relationships over time. (author abstract)
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