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Eager to Learn: Educating our Preschoolers
fluenced by relationships in the home environment, as well as the family’s culture, values, and beliefs.
Children and Adults
There is evidence that the transactional processes manifested by children and their parents in the home are seen in child-child and child-teacher relationships in school settings. Relevant work on these occurrences has been conducted by Patterson and his colleagues on the origins of antisocial behavior in childhood (Patterson, 1986).
John Bowlby’s attachment theory (1969) has been expanded in the past decade (Howes 1999; Pianta, 1994) to encompass the notion of attachment networks. This contrasts with its earlier emphasis on the primacy of the child-mother attachment. In these more recent formulations, teachers in early childhood education programs are considered attachment figures because they provide physical and emotional care, and they are consistent and predictable in children’s lives. From the children’s perspective, these adults provide comfort, a secure base, and serve to organize the children’s behaviors in the setting.
Research that examines behavior in contexts outside the home has produced a large body of evidence on the validity of assessing relationships between children and teachers, identifying and examining antecedents of different qualities of the relationships, and examining the concurrent and long-term correlates of relationship qualities and children’s social competence. The findings of these studies suggest that the quality of a child-teacher attachment can be reliably and validly assessed, that similar processes are implicated in the formation of attachments of different qualities with alternative caregivers and with the child’s mother, and that attachment security with the alternative caregiver predicts social competence in the long and the short term. Children with more positive teacher-child relationships appear more able to exploit the learning opportunities available in classrooms (Howes and Smith, 1995), construct positive peer relationships (Howes et al., 1994), and adjust to the demands of formal schooling (Birch and Ladd, 1997; Pianta and Steinberg, 1992; Lynch and Cicchetti, 1992). An important caveat to this research is that the way in