Supportive teacher relationships reduce crime later in pupils’ lives

Young people who have a good relationship with their teacher in childhood are less likely to engage in anti-social behaviour in adolescence, a study claims.

A supportive relationship with a teacher at the ages of 10 to 11 years is a factor in protecting against engaging in violence or delinquency up to seven years later, the research found.

Experts at the University of Edinburgh examined the experiences of 1,483 young people who had a change of teacher between the ages of 9 and 10.

They identified pairs of young people with similar backgrounds and influences, but who reported different experiences of the teacher change. Each pair had one young person who had a relatively better relationship with their teacher and one who had a relatively worse relationship with their teacher but were otherwise highly similar.

Researchers then compared each pair’s levels of delinquency and violence at three stages, at ages 13, 15 and 17. The analyses were carried out on 208 pairs at age 13, 235 pairs at age 15 and 194 pairs at age 17.

Data collected from when the children were 11 years old was used to assess their relationship with their teacher. At the three age stages, the participants also completed questionnaires that captured examples of aggressive and anti-social behaviour such as stealing from home, shoplifting or vandalism.

Researchers found those with a better quality of teacher-student relationships at age 11 year reported fewer delinquent acts up to age 17 than those with worse teacher-student relationships.

The young people with a better relationship with their teacher also reported being less aggressive and violent at age 17.

Dr Ingrid Obsuth, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Health in Social Science, said: “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.

“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.”

The study is available here.