Summary: Helicopter parenting can lead to an increased risk for anxiety, depression and other health issues for young adults, a new study reports.
Source: Florida State University.
As thousands of young adults prepare to leave the nest and attend college for the first time, parents may want to examine whether they are kind and supportive or hovering into helicopter parent territory.
Parental involvement is crucial to a child’s development into an adult, but Florida State University researchers are finding that crossing the line between supportive and too involved could indirectly lead to issues such as depression and anxiety for young adults.
“Helicopter parents are parents who are overly involved,” said FSU doctoral candidate Kayla Reed. “They mean everything with good intentions, but it often goes beyond supportive to intervening in the decisions of emerging adults.”
In the Journal of Child and Family Studies, Reed and Assistant Professor of Family and Child Sciences Mallory Lucier-Greer write that what has been called “helicopter parenting” can have a meaningful impact on how young adults see themselves and whether they can meet challenges or handle adverse situations.
Though much attention has been paid to the notion of helicopter parenting, most of the studies have focused on adolescents. This study specifically looks at the emerging adults, or college-aged students who are navigating the waters of attending college.
The paper will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal, but is available online now.
Researchers surveyed more than 460 college students, ages 18 to 25, about how their mothers influenced their life decisions by asking the students how their mothers would respond to sample situations. They specifically looked at mothers because they are traditionally in the primary caregiver role.
They also asked students to self-assess their abilities to persist in complicated tasks or adverse situations and then also rate their depression, life satisfaction, anxiety and physical health.
Students who had mothers who allowed them more autonomy reported higher life satisfaction, physical health and self-efficacy. However, students with a so-called helicopter parent were more likely to report low levels of self-efficacy, or the ability to handle some tougher life tasks and decisions.
In turn, those who reported low levels of self-efficacy also reported higher levels of anxiety and depression, and lower life satisfaction and physical health.
“The way your parents interact with you has a lot to do with how you view yourself,” Lucier-Greer said. “If parents are simply being supportive, they are saying things like ‘you can manage your finances, you can pick out your classes.’ It changes if they are doing that all for you. I think there are good intentions behind those helicopter behaviors, but at the end of the day you need to foster your child’s development.”
Sample scenarios given to students included questions about whether their mothers would encourage them to resolve a conflict with a roommate or friend on his or her own, or whether their mothers would actively intervene in the situation.
Other sample questions probed whether mothers regularly asked students to text or call at given intervals and whether the mothers were controlling their diets.
Researchers hope to continue this line of work in the future by expanding the work to look at both mothers and fathers and also young adults as they enter the workforce.
Other authors on the paper are FSU doctoral student James Duncan, FSU doctoral candidate Anthony Ferraro and recent FSU graduate Courtney Fixelle.
Source: Kathleen Haughney – Florida State University
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Original Research: Abstract for “Helicopter Parenting and Emerging Adult Self-Efficacy: Implications for Mental and Physical Health” by Kayla Reed, James M. Duncan, Mallory Lucier-Greer, Courtney Fixelle, and Anthony J. Ferraro in Journal of Child and Family Studies. Published online June 6 2016 doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0466-x
Helicopter Parenting and Emerging Adult Self-Efficacy: Implications for Mental and Physical Health
Helicopter parenting has become an increasing concern among practitioners, college administrators, and professors. Further, some research has indicated that this form of parenting may have a deleterious effect on emerging adult college students’ mental health. This study examines the factor structure of the Helicopter Parenting Behaviors measure, a recent scale developed to examine intrusive and supportive parenting behaviors, by using confirmatory factor analysis. We utilized a self-determination theoretical framework to replicate and expand current research regarding the impact of helicopter parenting and autonomy supportive parenting on emerging adult mental and physical well-being. Further, we examined self-efficacy as a mechanism for helicopter parenting and autonomy supportive parenting to impact well-being, using structural equation modeling with a sample of 461 emerging adult college students from a large southeastern, United States university. The two-factor structure of the Helicopter Parenting Behaviors measure was confirmed, indicating helicopter parenting and autonomy supportive parenting are two unique, but related, constructs. Both autonomy supportive parenting and helicopter parenting were found to have indirect effects on anxiety, depression, life satisfaction, and physical health through self-efficacy. Results also indicated autonomy supportive parenting was directly related to life satisfaction and physical health when accounting for self-efficacy, whereas helicopter parenting was not directly related to well-being. This study adds to the extant literature by its’ application of a family-level lens to the self-determination theory, its’ advancement of parenting behaviors measurement, and its’ exploration of the continued influence of parenting during emerging adulthood.
“Helicopter Parenting and Emerging Adult Self-Efficacy: Implications for Mental and Physical Health” by Kayla Reed, James M. Duncan, Mallory Lucier-Greer, Courtney Fixelle, and Anthony J. Ferraro in Journal of Child and Family Studies. Published online June 6 2016 doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0466-x