The relationships children form with their teachers in early childhood are known to be important in the context of their ongoing learning and development. This study investigated student–teacher relationship quality (STRQ) in grade one students with (n = 177) and without (n = 208) attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We also examined whether a range of child and teacher factors were associated with STRQ. Children (M = 7.3 years; SD = 0.4) were recruited through 43 schools and screened for ADHD using parent and teacher screening questionnaires (Conners 3 ADHD index). ADHD cases were confirmed using the diagnostic interview schedule for children version IV. STRQ was rated by teachers using the student–teacher relationship scale — short form. Results showed that children with ADHD experienced poorer STRQ compared to children without ADHD (Cohen’s d = 1.11). STRQ was associated with child sex, medication use, ADHD subtype, cognitive/academic functioning and behavior, teacher experience, and self-efficacy, and parent education and socio-economic status. After controlling for school and teacher clustering, children’s prosocial behavior and teacher years of experience were positively associated with STRQ in both groups. In children with ADHD, conduct problems and child sex (boys) predicted poorer teacher relationship quality. For children without ADHD, higher socio-economic status was associated with better STRQ. Targeting modifiable factors associated with STRQ for children with and without ADHD and their teachers may be one way ofimproving school outcomes for at-risk children. Promoting prosocial behavior in classrooms may benefit STRQ for all children.
ttention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a highly prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder affecting approximately 5% of children worldwide (Polanczyk, Willcutt, Salum, Kieling, & Rohde, 2014). ADHD is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and co-occurring behavior and self-regulation difficulties (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Due to symptoms and characteristics associated with the disorder, children with ADHD tend to experience considerable difficulties in the school environment (Kos, Richdale, & Hay, 2006). Children with ADHD have been found to experience academic underachievement (Massetti et al., 2008), and are rated below their peers on behaviors that enable academic success, such as classroom engagement, academic motivation, interpersonal skills and study skills (Vile Junod, DuPaul, Jitendra, Volpe, & Cleary, 2006; Volpe et al., 2006). Over the longterm, educational outcomes remain poor and social difficulties are likely to persist (Loe & Feldman, 2007). ADHD in childhood predicts a reduced overall quality of life and ADHD remains associated with substantial social, health and economic problems later in life (Barkley, Fischer, Smallish, & Fletcher, 2006; Harpin, 2005).
While school difficulties experienced by children with ADHD are well recognized, little is known about the factors that may protect children with ADHD from poor school functioning. One possible buffer is the extent to which a child has a supportive, non-conflictual relationship with his/her classroom teacher (Baker, 2006; Roorda,Koomen, Spilt, & Oort, 2011).Whilst student–teacher relationships for children with behavioral difficulties (e.g., aggression) have been shown to involve more conflict and less closeness (Crum, Waschbusch, & Willoughby, 2016; Lei, Cui, & Chiu, 2016), little is known about the nature of student–teacher relationships for children with ADHD. It is also unclear whether poor student–teacher relationship quality (STRQ) arises primarily from behavioral problems that often accompanyADHD, or whether there are other importantfactors that may offer opportunity for interventions tailored to children with ADHD. This cross-sectional study compared STRQ between children with and without ADHD in a large community sample in grade one (second year of schooling) with the aim of identifying child and teacher-level factors associated with STRQ.