A new study (Split, Koomen & Jak, in press) indicates that's not the case.
This appears to be the first large-scale study that examined teacher-student relationships in primary school while accounting for the sex of teachers.
Teachers completed questionnaires about their relationships with their students. The questionnaires measured three constructs:
- Closeness Warmth and open communication. Sample item "If upset, this child will seek comfort from me."
- Conflict Negative interactions, need for the teacher to correct student behavior. Sample item "This child remains angry or resentful after being disciplined."
- Dependency Clinginess on the part of the student; sample item "This child asks for my help when he or she really does not need help."
For Closeness, female teachers generally felt closer to their students than male teachers. Male teachers did not feel closer to either boys or girls, but female teachers felt closer to girls than they did to boys.
For Conflict, female teachers reported less conflict than male teachers did. Both male and female teachers reported less conflict with girls than with boys.
For Dependency, female teachers reported less dependency than male teachers did. There were no differences among boys and girls on this measure.
This research has been difficult to conduct, simply because most groups of teachers don't have enough male teachers in elementary grades to conduct a meaningful analysis. This is just one study, but the results indicate that all teachers--male and female--have a tougher time with boys. More conflictual relationships are reported with boys than with girls, and female teachers report less close relationships with boys.
Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2001). Early teacher–child relationships and the trajectory of children's school outcomes through eighth grade. Child Development, 72, 625–638.
Hughes, J. N., Luo, W., Kwok, O. M., & Loyd, L. K. (2008). Teacher–student support, effortful engagement, and achievement: A 3-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 1–14.
Split, J. L., Koomen, H. M. Y., & Jak, S. (in press) Are boys better off with male and girls with female teachers? A multilevel investigation of measurement invariance and gender match in teacher-student relationship quality. Journal of School Psychology.