Adjusting to school: children's drawings depict differences in relationships with teachers

L. Harrison, L. Clarke, J. Ungerer

    Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


    A positive relationship with the classroom teacher is a key predictor of young children’s successful adjustment to school, yet few studies have examined this from the point of view of the child. In this paper, we describe two approaches to including children’s perspectives on relationships with teachers: direct questions to rate feelings about the teacher and indirect representations through drawing. Participants were 114 six-year-old children (58 boys, 56 girls) who were interviewed at the end of their first year of school. Children completed the School Liking and Avoidance Scale, with additional questions about their classroom teacher(s), and drew a picture of themselves and their teacher(s) at school. Drawings were rated on dimensions developed by Fury, Carlson and Sroufe (1997) to assess attachment relationship quality in child-family drawings, including: Pride/Happiness, emotional connectedness to the teacher; Distance/Isolation, negative affect, physical distance from the teacher; Tension/Anger: careless scribbling, constricted figures; Bizarreness/Dissociation: unusual signs or symbols, angry facial features, fantasy themes; Global Pathology: overall rating of the child’s emotional health. Ratings were combined to generate an index of relational negativity. Results were compared with teachers’ ratings of relationship quality and school adjustment. Results confirmed the effectiveness of the child measures. Greater negativity in children’s representations of their relationship with the teacher was associated with less teacher-rated closeness and more conflict. Children with more disturbed relationships were also rated by teachers as showing more problem behaviour in class and less competence in learning and social interactions with peers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)174
    Number of pages1
    JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
    Issue numberSuppl.
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    Event15th Biennial Australasian Human Development Association Conference - Sydney, Australia
    Duration: 5 Jul 20078 Jul 2007


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