The purpose of this paper was to explore factors that influence teacher-child relationships in Head Start. Three Head Start teachers from three centers were recruited for this study. Interview and observation data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach by using the qualitative data analysis software NVivo. Two coders completed the coding process. Inter-coder reliability and other triangulation techniques were employed to ensure the credibility of this study. The analysis revealed factors that teachers perceived as beneficial or harmful to their relationships with children. Three main themes emerged: professionalism (i.e., teacher beliefs, education, and work experience), teacher self-efficacy (i.e., teacher empowerment, children’s progress, and sufficient education and work experience), and job stress (i.e., lacking organizational support, teacher-parent conflict, workload, and insufficient training). The data vividly illustrated the mechanisms through which those influential factors might work. The results may have implications for teacher education and fostering positive teacher-child relationships in Head Start.


Head Start, Poverty, Teacher-Child Relationship, Self-Efficacy, Stress, Grounded Theory

Author Bio(s)

Shiyi Chen is a doctoral candidate in Florida State University, her primary research interest is preschool teacher-child relationships and occupational well beings of teachers working with children living in poverty. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: sc12w@my.fsu.edu.

Beth Phillips is an associate professor in Florida State University. Her primary research interest is early language development. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: bphillips@fcrr.org.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.