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Teachers as Builders of Respectful School Climates: Implications for Adolescent Drug Use Norms and Depressive Symptoms in High School



Positive school climates have been found to have favorable effects on adolescent health risk behaviors and mental health outcomes. However, the mechanisms by which teacher behavior may promote such effects in high schools have not been extensively studied. Based on social control theory and a social developmental-contextual model, it was predicted that by respecting students’ points of view and decision making capabilities, teachers can help build respectful school climates that encourage healthy norms of behavior. Structural equation modeling with a nationally representative sample of 476 youth ages 14–18 supported the model. Adolescents who reported higher teacher support and regard for student perspectives in their high schools were more likely to see their schools as having respectful climates and healthy norms of drug use which was associated with lower levels of personal drug use. Students in such schools also reported greater social belonging and fewer symptoms of depression.