Teacher–student relationships and academic adaptation in college freshmen: Disentangling the between-person and within-person effects

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Abstract

Introduction: Adolescents face increased academic demands and lower structure as they move from high school to college. Good relationships with teachers are considered a crucial factor linked with adaptive academic behavior. However, few longitudinal studies have investigated the association between teacher–student relationships and academic adaptation over time in the higher education context, especially focusing on freshmen and separating the between-person and within-person effects. This study aimed to fill the said gaps based on the developmental-contextual perspective of psychosocial adjustment.
Methods: Participants were 1578 Chinese freshmen who just transitioned from high school to college (Mage = 18.72 years, SD = 0.92). Data were collected at the 2nd (T1), 4th (T2), and 8th (T3) months upon college entry. Both cross-lagged panel model (CLPM) and random intercept, CLPM (RI-CLPM) were used to examine the focal association.
Results: Findings of CLPM revealed bidirectional associations between teacher–student relationships and academic adaptation over time. Findings from RI-CLPM suggested that at the between-person level, teacher–student relationships were significantly related to academic adaptation, echoing the results of CLPM. At the within-person level, however, the findings revealed a unidirectional effect, such that the within-person changes in teacher–student relationships at T2 predicted corresponding changes in academic adaptation at T3. Findings of CLPM and RI-CLPM were robust after controlling for T1 covariates.
Conclusion: The association between teacher–student relationships and academic adaptation is due mainly to the stable, trait-like difference between individuals and due partly to state-like variations within individuals. Enhancing teacher–student relationships appears a promising avenue to facilitate academic adaptation among college freshmen. Copyright © 2022 The Foundation for Professionals in Services for Adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-553
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Volume94
Issue number4
Early online date05 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Citation

Li, J.-B. (2022). Teacher–student relationships and academic adaptation in college freshmen: Disentangling the between-person and within-person effects. Journal of Adolescence, 94(4), 538-553. doi: 10.1002/jad.12045

Keywords

  • Adjustment
  • College adaptation
  • Higher education
  • Random intercept cross‐lagged panel model
  • Teacher–student relationships
  • Transition

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