Helicopter Parenting Hinders Children’s Self-Control Skills

Helicopter parenting is a style of parenting in which parents excessively monitor their children and often remove obstacles from their paths, instead of helping them develop the skills to handle the inevitable difficulties of life. New research conducted by Florida State University that was published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies looked at why helicopter parenting may harm young adults. They found that hovering parents give their children fewer opportunities to practice self-control skills, such as the ability to manage emotions and behaviors. The research also suggests that helicopter parenting from fathers could be especially harmful.

When helicopter parenting hinders development of self-control skills among college students, those students are more likely to experience school burnout — exhaustion from schoolwork, cynical attitudes toward their education and perceived inadequacy.

In their study, researchers used self-reported scores from students about how involved their parents were in their lives, how effective the students were at exercising self-control and how much they experienced school burnout. They controlled for variables, such as gender, race, year in college, family structure and family income.

Dealing with school burnout often spawns more mental health challenges, such as anxiety, depression or addiction, and leads to worse academic outcomes, researchers said.

Researchers also investigated how over-parenting from a mother or a father can lead to different outcomes, something that previous studies had not examined. They found that although emerging adults might experience more over-parenting from mothers, helicopter parenting from fathers is more associated with burnout. That might be because, in the United States, mothers are often perceived as more involved in the daily lives of their children than fathers, researchers explained. When fathers are overly involved, their emerging adult children may feel more stress to perform well in school.

It’s unclear if helicopter parenting by fathers leads to lower self-control scores for students, or if paternal helicopter parenting is a response to lower self-control and school burnout. Researchers said additional work should investigate paternal helicopter parenting over time and examine possible differences in how father-son and father-daughter pairs interact.

For parents who are worried they might be over-involved in the lives of their children, study co-author Ross May, a research assistant professor and the associate director of the Family Institute, recommends self-reflection.

Doctoral student Hayley Love and Professor of Family & Child Sciences Ming Cui contributed to this work. Here is the summary published by Bill Wellock: https://news.fsu.edu/news/2019/11/13/fsu-research-helicopter-parenting-hinders-childrens-self-control-skills/