She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Philosophy at Hunter College in 1948, and her Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Her doctoral dissertation was entitled "Some personality and situational determinants of behavior in a discussion group". After being awarded her doctorate she served as a staff psychologist at Cowell Memorial Hospital in Berkeley. She was also director of two United States Public Health Service projects and a consultant on a California state project
From 1958-1960 she also had a private practice in Berkeley.
She is a developmental psychologist at the Institute of Human Development, University of California, Berkeley. She is known for her research on parenting styles and for her critique of deception in psychological research, especially Stanley Milgram"s controversial experiment.
Her parenting styles were based on two aspects of parenting that are found to be extremely important. The first was "Parental responsiveness", which refers to the degree the parent responds to the child"s needs.
The second was "Parental demandingness" which is the extent to which the parent expects more mature and responsible behavior from a child.
Using these two dimensions, she recognizes three different parenting styles:
Authoritarian ("Too Hard"): the authoritarian parenting style is characterized by high demandingness with low responsiveness. The authoritarian parent is rigid, harsh, and demanding. Abusive parents usually fall in this category (although Baumrind is careful to emphasize that NOT all authoritarian parents are abusive).
Permissive ("Too Soft"): this parenting style is characterized by low demandingness with high responsiveness.
The permissive parent is overly responsive to the child"s demands, seldom enforcing consistent rules. The "spoiled" child often has permissive parents.
Authoritative ("Just Right"): this parenting style is characterized by high demandingness with huge responsiveness. The authoritative parent is firm but not rigid, willing to make an exception when the situation warrants.
The authoritative parent is responsive to the child"s needs but not indulgent.
Baumrind makes it clear that she favors the authoritative style. Baumrind has studied the effects of corporal punishment on children, and has concluded that mild spanking, in the context of an authoritative (NOT authoritarian) parenting style, is unlikely to have a significant detrimental effect, if one is careful to control for other variables such as socioeconomic status. She observes that previous studies demonstrating a correlation between corporal punishment and bad outcomes failed to control for variables such as socioeconomic status.
Low-income families are more likely to employ corporal punishment compared with affluent families.
Children from low-income neighborhoods are more likely to commit violent crimes compared with children from affluent neighborhoods. But when appropriate controls are made for family income and other independent variables, Baumrind believes that mild corporal punishment per se does not increase the likelihood of bad outcomes.
This assertion has in turn attracted criticism and counter-points from other researchers in the same publication, for example: Whether harmful or not, there is still no consistent evidence of beneficial effects. Her scientific influences include Theodor Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson, Nevit Sanford, Egon Brunswik, David Krech, Richard South. Crutchfield.
Fellow American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society (G. Stanley Hall award 1988). Member Society Research in Child Development.