OBJECTIVE The goal of this study was to assess which parenting behaviors, perceptions, and risk factors were associated with optimal versus delayed development.

METHODS A total of 382 families from the national Brigance Infant and Toddler Screens standardization and validation study participated. Data sources included parent questionnaires, child testing, and examiner observations of parent-child interactions. Parenting styles research was operationalized with the Brigance Parent-Child Interactions Scale, a brief measure of parenting behaviors and perceptions.

RESULTS Six positive parenting behaviors and perceptions predicted average to above-average development on the Brigance screens. Conversely, <2 positive parenting behaviors and negative perceptions of children indicated child performance nearly 2 SDs below the mean on Brigance screens. Psychosocial risk factors associated with fewer positive parenting behaviors and with negative perceptions included >3 children in the home, multiple moves, limited English, and parental depression.

CONCLUSIONS A dearth of positive parenting behaviors plus negative perceptions of children, with or without psychosocial risk factors, negatively affect child development, which is apparent as early as 6 months of age. The older the child is, the greater the performance gaps are. Language development is particularly at risk when parenting is problematic. Findings underscore the importance of early development promotion with parents, focusing on their talking, playing, and reading with children, and the need for interventions regarding psychosocial risk factors.