"Teachers, afterschool program staff, and mothers: Relationships with key adults and children’s adjustment in early elementary school"
Simpkins is a developmental psychologist, studying child and adolescent development. She researches how families, friendships, and social position factors (such as ethnicity and culture) shape adolescents’ organized after-school activities and motivation. She is currently working on research focused on the positive outcomes of youth’s participation in activities as well as the predictors and correlates of high school students’ STEM motivational beliefs. She is co-PI on grants from the John Templeton Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation that study how organized after-school activities support positive development from childhood through young adulthood. Simpkins directs the Center for After School and Summer Excellence (CASE) and Project REACH and co-directs the After School Activities Project.
Vandell served as the Founding Dean of UCI's School of Education and is one of the principal investigators of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Her work is viewed by many social scientists as one of the most comprehensive studies of the short-term and long-term effects of early education programs, schooling, and the family on children’s development. She is the author of more than 150 articles and three books.
According to bioecological theory, children’s experiences in one developmental setting are meaningful for their adjustment in other settings. In the current study, the quality of children’s relationships with classroom teachers, afterschool program staff, and mothers in 1st grade (n = 137) were examined in relation to their academic, social-emotional, and behavioral adjustment at school in 2nd grade. Closeness and conflict varied across these three adult-child relationships. Our hypotheses were partially supported such that higher teacher-child conflict in 1st grade related to poorer work habits and cooperation in 2nd grade. More conflict with afterschool staff in 1st grade was associated with lower social self-control and more externalizing behaviors at school in 2nd grade. Closeness was not related to children’s adjustment in 2nd grade. These findings highlight the potential negative implications of conflictual relationships with teachers and afterschool staff for children’s school adjustment.