Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 691–703 | Cite as

Social Risk and Peer Victimization in Elementary School Children: The Protective Role of Teacher-Student Relationships

  • L. Christian ElledgeEmail author
  • Allison R. Elledge
  • Rebecca A. Newgent
  • Timothy A. Cavell


Children not accepted or actively rejected by peers are at greater risk for peer victimization. We examined whether a positive teacher-student relationship can potentially buffer these children from the risk of peer victimization. Participants were 361 elementary school children in the 4th or 5th grade. Peer-report measures were used to assess teacher-student relationship quality (TSRQ), social preference, and rejected sociometric status; peer victimization was assessed via self-, peer-, and teacher-reports. As expected, social preference assessed in the fall semester was a significant negative predictor of self- and peer-reported victimization measured in the spring, controlling for prior levels of peer victimization. TSRQ in the fall was not a significant unique predictor of self-, peer-, or teacher-reported victimization the following spring, controlling for fall victimization and social preference scores. We found a significant interaction between social preference and TSRQ in predicting self-, peer-, and teacher-reported peer victimization: Social preference significantly predicted peer victimization, but only for those children with relatively poor student-teacher relationships. Subgroup analysis revealed that children actively rejected by peers in the fall reported significantly less peer victimization in the spring (controlling for fall victimization scores) when their fall TSRQ scores were at or above the sample mean compared to rejected children whose TSRQ scores were low (i.e., < −0.5 SD below the mean). Findings offer preliminary support for the notion that teacher-student relationship quality can buffer children at social risk for continued peer victimization.


Bullying Peer victimization Teacher-student relationships Peer relationships Peer acceptance 



This research was supported by grants from the College of Education and Health Professions and from the Marie Wilson Howells Endowment in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arkansas. The authors wish to thank the Springdale School District and its students and faculty for their cooperation and participation.

Ethical Standards

This project was approved by the University Institutional Review Board, and written parental consent and child assent were obtained for all participating children prior to study participation.

Conflict of Interest

The author’s declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Christian Elledge
    • 1
    Email author
  • Allison R. Elledge
    • 2
  • Rebecca A. Newgent
    • 3
  • Timothy A. Cavell
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyEast Tennessee Children’s HospitalKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Counselor EducationWestern Illinois University – Quad CitiesMolineUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

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