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Authoritative School Climate, Aggression Toward Teachers, and Teacher Distress in Middle School

NCJ Number
School Psychology Quarterly Volume: 31 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2016 Pages: 122-139
J. K. Berg; D. Cornell
Date Published
March 2016
18 pages
Using authoritative school climate theory, this study examined whether schools with high disciplinary structure and student support were associated with less aggression toward teachers and less teacher distress.
Multilevel modeling revealed that teachers in authoritative schools experienced less aggression and felt safer and less distressed. Lower aggression by students mediated the association between more authoritative schools and lower distress such that more structured and supportive schools had greater teacher safety and, in turn, less distress. The findings support the idea that more structured and supportive schools relate to greater safety for teachers and, in turn, less distress. The sample of 9,134 teachers in 389 middle schools came from the Virginia Secondary School Climate Survey, a statewide survey administered to all public schools with 7th and 8th grade enrollment. The majority of teachers (75 percent) were female. More than half (53 percent) reported that they had more than 10 years of teaching experience; 23 percent reported 6 to 10 years; 24 percent reported 1 to 5 years. Students reported on the degree to which their schools were structured and supportive. Teachers reported on their experiences of aggression by students, their level of distress, and their feelings of safety. Staff-related infractions computed from Department of Education records were also used. Research limitations and implications for practice are discussed. (Publisher abstract modified)