Explaining teacher–student interactions in early childhood: An interpersonal theoretical approach

Jochem Thijs, Helma Koomen, Debora Roorda, Judith Ten Hagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present study used an interpersonal theoretical perspective to examine the interactions between Dutch
teachers and kindergartners. Interpersonal theory provides explanations for dyadic interaction behaviors by
stating that complementary behaviors (dissimilar in terms of control, and similar in terms of affiliation) elicit
and sustain each other. We observed 69 kindergarten children (Mage = 5.79 years) and their 37 regular
teachers during a dyadic interaction task. Every 5 s, independent observers rated teachers' and children's
behaviors along the interpersonal dimensions of control and affiliation. Teachers reported on children's
shyness and the quality of the teacher–child relationship. Multilevel modeling provided correlational
evidence for complementarity within and between dyads. Cross-lagged analyses revealed that teachers
showed complementarity for control and that children showed complementarity for affiliation. Children also
reacted complementarily with respect to control but only if they were shy or shared positive relationships
with their teachers. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-43
Number of pages9
Volume32 (2011)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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