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How our bonds with others shape us: The role of school-based social relationships for the development of children in the general and cognitively gifted population

Boek - Dissertatie

All human beings share the need to belong; to feel that others like or love them and care for them in a meaningful manner. Forming warm, supportive relationships with those around us is therefore crucial for flourishing in life. In the lives of children, the classroom forms a key developmental context and the people in this context, that is teachers and peers, play an important role in shaping their development. In the current dissertation, our aim was to shed more light on these school-based social relationships and their importance for children's psycho-social development, both in a general and a cognitively gifted population. To that end, we formulated five main research objectives. First, we wanted to examine the specific importance of both individual-level and class-level teacher-child interactions for development. The second research aim was to unravel the unique effects of teacher-child and peer relations for children's development. Third, we aimed to study the transactional interplay among relationships with teachers and peers, and child development. As the fourth research objective, we focused on the role of interactions with teachers and peers in un understudied sample: the cognitively gifted population. Finally, we examined teacher perceptions of cognitively gifted children and their interactions with teachers. We conducted four studies to address these objectives. The first (N=237 children, Mage=5.19 years) examined the relative contribution of peer acceptance and individual and class-level teacher-child interactions to development. Study 2 (N=586 children, Mage=9.26 years) focused on transactional relations among teacher support, peer acceptance, and engagement. The third (N=522 teachers-in-training, Mage=22.24 years) experimentally examined teacher perceptions of cognitively gifted children and their teacher interactions. Study 4 (N=3101 children, Mage=9.76 years) focused on the role of teacher conflict and peer acceptance for school well-being and differences between high- and average-ability students. Overall, our results showed that social bonds are crucial for shaping children's development. First, both individual and class-level teacher-child interactions impacted behavioral development. Second, teacher support and peer acceptance uniquely predicted engagement and peer acceptance affected school well-being. Third, peer acceptance had a significant effect on teacher support and conflict. Fourth, cognitively gifted children showed less teacher conflict and higher peer acceptance and school well-being, compared to average-ability children. The relations among these concepts were similar for both groups. Fifth, teachers, in general, had more negative perceptions about cognitively gifted children and their teacher-child interactions and brief counter-stereotyping information did not buffer this. Finally, this dissertation concludes with potential avenues for future research; such as the combination of both the home and school context in research and the concept of unconditional regard, and implications for clinical practice; that can hopefully foster positive child development in the future.
Jaar van publicatie:2020