Category: ADHD - Child
A growing body of research indicates that sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT) is distinct from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other psychopathology symptoms and also uniquely associated with functional impairment in children. Studies have consistently found SCT to be associated with poorer peer functioning, yet no study has examined whether SCT is also related to poorer functioning in the student-teacher relationship. The student-teacher relationship has been identified as an important predictor of children’s socio-emotional, behavioral, and academic development, with higher levels of closeness and lower levels of conflict being associated with more positive outcomes. Previous research has identified both internalizing and externalizing psychopathology symptoms as being associated with higher levels of student-teacher conflict and lower levels of student-teacher closeness. Thus, the current study aimed to examine whether SCT, as rated by teachers and students, was uniquely associated with poorer student-teacher relationship quality above and beyond child demographics and other psychopathology symptoms. Sex was also examined as a possible moderator of the association between SCT and student-teacher relationship quality. Participants were a school-based sample of 176 children (53% female) in 1st-6th grades and their teachers. Teachers completed a measure of SCT in the fall semester (T1) and again in the spring semester approximately six months later (T2). Children provided self-ratings of SCT at T2, and teachers provided ratings of student-teacher relationship quality (conflict and closeness) at T2. In regression analyses controlling for child demographics (i.e., sex, age, free/reduced lunch status) and other mental health symptoms (i.e., ADHD, conduct problems, internalizing), teacher-rated SCT at both T1 and T2 was associated with greater conflict. This association was qualified by a significant SCT × sex interaction for both T1 and T2 analyses (ps = .01 and .04, respectively), whereby SCT was associated with greater conflict for girls but not boys. Further, child-rated SCT was also associated with greater teacher-rated conflict (β = .29, p = .008), above and beyond demographics and child-rated aggression and internalizing symptoms. Finally, SCT was the only psychopathology dimension correlated with less closeness in the student-teacher relationship (rs = -.16 to -.21, ps < .05), with results consistent across time (teacher-rated SCT at both T1 and T2) and informant (both teacher- and child-rated SCT). Findings from this study extend the social difficulties associated with SCT to the domain of the student-teacher relationship, an important interpersonal relationship associated with academic and socio-emotional outcomes in children.