Alfred Baldwin and his colleagues provided one of the most important early attempts to describe systematic patterns of child rearing. This research, conducted in the 1930s and 1940s, followed a group of children and their families longitudinally over time. They observed parents and children interacting together in their homes, and they also assessed progress in children's development at different ages. They identified two sets of parental childrearing dimensions that were related to differences in children's outcomes. As others had done, they distinguished parents along a dimension of emotional involvement versus detachment. They also distinguished between democratic and autocratic parents. Autocratic parents were more likely to simply hand down their rules, while democratic parents were more likely to involve the child in family decision making and provide explanations for their expectations. Their research demonstrated that democratic parents had children who were less hostile and who worked more effectively in the absence of adult supervision (Maccoby 1992; Maccoby and Martin 1983).
There have been many subsequent attempts to improve on Baldwin's descriptions of parenting styles. The most influential has been the research of Diana Baumrind, who believed that the democratic style as defined by Baldwin was not sufficient to produce culturally competent adults and that democracy must be combined with authority to produce optimal competence. Beginning in the 1960s, Baumrind identified a set of characteristics that she believed defined competence for children in North American society (Baumrind 1971), and then she examined parents' childrearing beliefs and practices to determine the parenting styles that were associated with those outcomes. She initially developed a typology of three distinct parenting styles that were related to child outcomes, but research from 1980 onward has expanded to include four distinct parenting styles.
Baumrind's widely used typology describes parenting styles as varying along two completely independent dimensions of demandingness and responsiveness that, when crossed, yield four parenting styles. Authoritative parents are both responsive and demanding. They set clear, reasonable standards for responsible behavior that are consistent with children's developing abilities, are firm in their enforcement, and provide explanations for their positions. They are also kind, warm, and responsive to children's needs and will negotiate their expectations. Authoritarian parents are demanding but not responsive. These parents place high values on obedience to rules, discourage give-and-take between parents and children, and do not take their child's needs into consideration. Permissive or indulgent parents are responsive but not demanding. These parents are warm and accepting and tolerant of the child's impulses. They also make few demands on the child for mature behavior, do not use much punishment, and avoid exerting their authority. More recently, permissive parents have been distinguished from rejecting-neglecting parents, who also do not make many demands on their children, primarily because they are disengaged, and thus are neither demanding nor responsive (Baumrind 1989).
Baumrind's research indicates that authoritative parenting is most effective in leading to healthy adjustment for children. Authoritative parenting consistently has been associated with a wide range of positive adolescent outcomes, including better academic performance, increased competence, autonomy, and self-esteem, more advanced moral development, less deviance, anxiety, and depression, and a more well-rounded orientation to peers (Maccoby and Martin 1983; Steinberg 2001). Baumrind has proposed that authoritative parenting is most effective because of parents' high expectations and support for mature behavior. Much of the research on parenting styles in relation to child and adolescent adjustment has been conducted on white middle-class families, but since the start of the 1990s, researchers have become increasingly interested in ethnic and cultural variations.