Can teacher–child relationships support human rights to freedom of opinion and expression, education and participation?

Cen Wang*, Linda J. Harrison, Sharynne McLeod, Sue Walker, Jantine L. Spilt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: This study explored how teacher–child relationships change over the early school years, in terms of closeness and conflict, whether these trajectories differ in type and frequency for children with typical development and children with speech and language concern (SLC), and whether the trajectories are associated with school outcomes at 12–13 years. Method: Participants were children, parents and teachers in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Parents identified 2890 children with typical communication and 1442 children with SLC. Teacher-rated teacher–child closeness and conflict were collected biennially over six years. Academic and social-emotional outcomes were reported by teachers and children. Growth mixture modelling was conducted to generate teacher–child relationship trajectories and Wald’s chi-square analyses were used to test the association between trajectories and school outcomes at 12–13 years, after controlling for a range of covariates including child’s sex, language background, Indigenous status, age and socio-economic position. Result: In both groups, the majority of children had teacher–child relationship trajectories with sustained high closeness and low conflict that predicted positive outcomes at age 12–13, but the SLC group was more at risk of less positive trajectories and poorer school outcomes. Conclusion: Close, less conflicted relationships with teachers may provide a supportive context for later language, literacy and social-emotional development. This study highlights the role of teachers in supporting children in their development of communication and academic skills that will optimise their capacity for freedom of opinions and expression, education and participation, as enshrined in Articles 19, 26 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Article 19
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • United Nations
  • speech and language concern
  • teacher–child relationship
  • literacy achievement
  • school adjustment


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