Date of Award

August 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Kyongboon Kwon

Committee Members

Karen Stoiber, Tina Freiburger, Razia Azen


Aggression, Emotion Dysregulation, Interpersonal Emotion Regulation, Response to Emotion, Teacher Beliefs, Teacher Response to Aggression


Overt aggression is a pervasive problem in schools. In 2017 alone, the US Department of Education reported over 360,000 aggressive incidents. According to the General Aggression Model, emotion regulation plays a key role in aggression. Teachers play a role in student regulation through their supportive (e.g., expressive-encouragement) and unsupportive (e.g., punitive) responses to students. This study examined the role of the classroom teacher in student aggression. Teacher emotion-focused beliefs about both the reasons for aggression and the effectiveness of emotionally-supportive responses to aggression, were explored. Teacher likelihood of mental health referral for anger and fighting (i.e., an emotion and behavior linked to aggression) was examined as a predictor of aggression. An additional predictor for student aggression, student perception of teacher response to student emotion (i.e., supportive, unsupportive) was examined. Participants consisted of fourth and fifth-grade students (n = 398) and their teachers (n = 22) from eight schools (five public, three charter) across five school districts in a midwestern state. The teacher-report assessed student aggression, emotion dysregulation, and general beliefs about aggression. The child-report assessed perception of teacher responses to student emotion. Data was analyzed using non-parametric analysis and hierarchical linear modeling. Teachers reported believing that emotion expression was the most likely reason for student aggression and that supportive responses to aggressive behavior (i.e., emotion discussion, referral for mental health support) were more effective than punitive responses. Student perception of teacher supportive response to student emotion (i.e., problem-focused, expressive encouragement) was negatively associated with student aggression, and student perception of teacher unsupportive response to student emotion (i.e., minimization, punishment) was positively associated with student aggression, after accounting for student emotion dysregulation, sex, race, and a race by emotion dysregulation interaction.