Consistently Emotionally Supportive Preschool Teachers and Children’s Social-emotional Learning in the Classroom: Implications for Center Directors and Teachers

Craig S. Bailey, Katherine M. Zinsser, Timothy W. Curby, Susanne A. Denham, Hideko H. Bassett


In the following article, we summarize research investigating the benefits of teachers providing emotionally supportive interactions for preschoolers’ social-emotional development and how teachers’ perceptions and experiences of stress may influence these interactions. Using data collected in both private and Head Start preschool classrooms, we examined relations between average levels and consistency of emotional support, teachers’ stress, and children’s social and emotional behaviors in the classroom. Overall, Head Start teachers showed less stress and had higher levels of emotional support than private center teachers. Furthermore, children in Head Start classrooms were less emotionally negative and aggressive. Private center children showed more negative emotion and aggression in classrooms with teachers who were inconsistent in their emotional supportiveness even when those teachers were, on average, very supportive. Private center teachers’ perception of stress also related to their emotional support and variability of emotional support and uniquely associated with children’s social-emotional behaviors. Implications for center directors are discussed, as well as practical and targeted suggestions for teachers like avoiding stress and using classroom organization, reappraisal, and response modification to effectively manage stress.

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This journal is a publication of the NHSA and the CEME at UNC Charlotte.