Good relationships between teachers and students can reduce future anti-social behaviour and crime rates, a study has revealed.
Experts at Edinburgh University have concluded that pupils who have a supportive relationship with their teacher between the ages of nine and ten are far less likely to participate in violence or delinquency for up to seven years afterwards.
The research looked into the experiences of 1,483 young people who had a change of teacher at the age of nine or ten, comparing their levels of delinquency and violence at the ages of 13, 15 and 17, with questionnaires carried out at each stage.
“Perceiving the relationship in a positive way and feeling supported and understood by the teacher has the power to protect young people from engaging in rule-breaking behaviours such as delinquency and violence,” said Dr Ingrid Obsuth, Lecturer at Edinburgh University’s School of Health in Social Science.
“By controlling for additional potential predictors of delinquency and violence in adolescence, we were able to provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a link between the quality of teacher-student relationships and later delinquency and violence.”
Examples of delinquent behaviour found in the study include a number of petty crimes, such as shoplifting, vandalism or stealing from home.
These findings remained consistent when other factors were taken into account, including parenting, mental health and aggressive behaviour predating the change of teacher.
Findings were drawn from an ongoing study when began in 2004, focussing on Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood and spearheaded by the University of Zurich.
This wider project is continuing to look into the dynamics of aggressive behaviour and victimisation in children and teenagers, supported by funding from the Jacobs Foundation and the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Findings from the Edinburgh University research have been published in the Crime and Delinquency journal.