Erin Hopkins, Psy.D., is a 2018 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Martha Straus, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Michael Foot, PhD, Committee Member
  • Christine Chamberlin, PhD, Committee Member


teachers, emotional self-regulation, school discipline

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Publication Date



This study investigated the relationship between teachers’ emotional regulation skills and their management of students’ disruptive behaviors. Teaching is an emotionally demanding job made significantly more stressful by the time and resources required to handle dysregulated and non-compliant students in the classroom. Unfortunately, the current disciplinary practices in many schools fail to support teachers in more effectively managing problematic behaviors. While some teachers appear to be skilled at diffusing an escalating classroom conflict, little is known about what distinguishes them from their more overwhelmed peers. This study sought to determine if there was a relationship between the teacher’s own capacity for emotional regulation and one indicator of escalating classroom conflict: disciplinary referrals. If teachers who have better emotional regulation are more effective in managing disruptive behaviors, then interventions supporting teachers might help them—and enable these struggling students to remain in the classroom. Eight school principals completed brief surveys to provide background information on their schools. Forty-three teachers completed a questionnaire that included: (a) demographic questions, (b) the number of office-discipline referrals made, and (c) a self-report survey on their emotional self-regulation skills. A linear regression was conducted with teachers’ scores on the emotional regulation survey as the predictor variable and office-discipline referral rates as the outcome variable. Higher scores on the emotional regulation survey predicted higher office-discipline referral rates. As teachers’ difficulty in emotional regulation increased, their office-discipline referral rate increased. However, these results were not maintained after removing two outliers with high office-discipline referral rates. A hierarchical linear regression was also completed to determine if emotional regulation scores provided a significant increase in disciplinary referrals after controlling for differences in school practices. Emotional regulation scores did provide a significant increase in prediction when the two outliers with high office-discipline referral rates were included, but this result was not maintained after the removal of outliers. The implications of these results were discussed with a focus on providing better training and support to teachers and improving school responses to students whose challenging behavior may be associated with early childhood adversity and trauma.


Erin Hopkins

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-4239-0583