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Eager to Learn: Educating our Preschoolers
which secure attachment relationships are demonstrated may differ across cultural groups (e.g., Harwood, 1992).
The quality of children’s early relationships with their teachers in child care is emerging as an important predictor of children’s social relations with peers (Howes et al., 1994; Howes and Tonyan, in press), their behavior problems (Howes et al., 1998), and school achievement as older children (Howes et al., in press). Perhaps most important for the work of this committee, if children feel emotionally secure with the teacher, they can use her as a secure base and a resource for exploring the learning opportunities of the classroom (Birch and Ladd, 1997; Howes et al., in press; Howes and Smith, 1995; Lynch and Cicchetti, 1992; Pianta and Steinberg, 1992).
More recent theoretical work from this perspective has included the social-emotional climate of the classroom as well as the individual relationship between the child and the teacher (Boyce et al., and the MacArthur Network on Psychopathology and Development, 1998). According to this perspective, the individual child-teacher relationship and teacher perceptions of individual children’s behavior problems are constructed in the context of classroom climates. The classroom social-emotional climate is defined as consisting of the level of aggression and other behavior problems in the group of children, the nature of the child-teacher relationships, and the frequency and complexity of play with peers. Using this notion of classroom climate, classrooms can be described on a continuum from positive, prosocial environments characterized by close adult-child relationships, intricate pretend play scenarios, and little disruptive behavior to angry, hostile environments characterized by conflictual child-teacher-relationships, angry disruptive children, and little constructive peer play or collaborative learning.
An alternative approach to early childhood pedagogy, also derived from attachment theory, emphasizes the socialization function of the adult. If a teacher constructs positive and secure attachment relationships with children, in part by responding positively and consistently to children’s appropriate behavior, so that there is a predominance of what Kochanska (1997) calls mutually reciprocal relationships, then classroom management becomes an issue of constructing, maintaining, and sustaining har-