Helicopter Parenting College Students: Study Shows Ill Effects

By Averill, Andrew | The Christian Science Monitor, February 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

Helicopter Parenting College Students: Study Shows Ill Effects


Averill, Andrew, The Christian Science Monitor


When a student attending University of Mary Washington in Fredricksburg, Va., decided to make a weekend visit out of the city to another college, she made one mistake she didn't tell Mom.

Worried after attempts to reach her daughter by phone failed, the student's mom made a missing person report to police, triggering an Amber Alert.

Holly Schiffrin, the student's psychology professor, recalls the incident as a perfect example of her new study on the effects of helicopter parenting, specifically by moms, on college-aged adults.

Parents think that because staying involved in elementary, middle, and high school worked, then staying involved in college will work as well, but Professor Schiffrin says that is not necessarily the case: "You may be trying to help, but your child may not be perceiving it as help, and because of that it may be having a negative impact on them.

The girl whose mother triggered an Amber Alert told the story to Schiffrin in the instructors senior seminar on parenting. The student was embarrassed when she recalled the story, but in the way she told it, Schiffrin says, it seemed somewhat typical behavior for her mother, so [her mother] might not have been that embarrassed.

The study, released Feb. 12, found that behaviors associated with helicopter parenting have a negative impact on the college-aged adult's feelings of autonomy, competency, and their relationship with their parents. Conventional wisdom in the field of psychology suggests that these three characteristics are necessary for healthy emergence into adulthood.

Of the 297 students ages 18 to 23 who agreed to complete an online survey, 41 percent said their mothers expect them to call or text their whereabouts; and 34 percent said their mothers worried if there was no immediate response to a call or text.

Mothers managed the bank accounts of 29 percent of respondents.

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