A teacher's state of mind may be key to preschoolers' behavior, a new study finds.
Researchers found that the students of teachers battling depression acted out more than preschoolers taught by other teachers.
The study points to the importance of the mental health of teachers, the investigators said.
"Most training for teachers is about managing the classroom and addressing behavioral problems," study lead author Lieny Jeon, a postdoctoral researcher in human sciences at Ohio State University in Columbus, said in a university news release. "They don't have the time or resources to address their own psychological difficulties, or access to any specialized mental health services."
For the purposes of the new study, the term "teacher" refers to classroom instructors and in-home child care providers, the researchers explained.
They analyzed data from families in 15 U.S. cities who used child care services for 3-year-old children at least five hours a week, as well as information from the children's preschool teachers. A total of 761 families and teachers were included in the study.
Depression in teachers was associated with children's behavioral problems such as aggression, anger, lack of control, depression, anxiety, sadness and withdrawal.
While the study couldn't confirm a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers blamed the rise in behavioral issues on negative atmospheres in child care programs, tied to teachers' symptoms of depression.
Most of the children in the study came from low-income, single-mother homes, the researchers noted. The researchers focused on that type of child "because we thought that children of low-income single mothers might experience a more emotionally vulnerable home environment, and we wanted to see if the role of teachers affected their psychological health," Jeon explained.
Behavioral problems in young children can lead to other issues later in life, including poor school performance and poor social skills, the researchers noted.
"It's incredibly important. Teachers can have a really big impact on children's development," study senior author Cynthia Buettner, associate professor of human sciences at the university, said in the news release.
The researchers are now looking more closely at preschool teachers' work and personal lives in order to develop ways to help them look after their mental health.