‘Overindulgence may be harmful’ is an advice often handed out by parents to bratty teenagers. But Holly Schiffrin and her colleagues from the University of Mary Washington have the same advice for parents as well. A study conducted by them shows that college students with overcontrolling parents are more likely to be depressed and less satisfied with their lives. This ‘helicopter’ parenting approach affects students badly because the students feel that their freedom is lost and it degrades their self-confidence. Their study was recently published online in Springer’s Journal of Child and Family Studies.
The researchers investigated the effects of parenting on the psychological wellbeing of children by studying the quality of self-determination among college students. For this purpose, 297 American undergraduate students, aged 18-23 years, were asked to answer an online survey in which they had to describe their mothers’ parenting behaviour, rate their own perceptions of their autonomy, competence, and relatedness [i.e., how well they get along with other people]. The team also gauged the students’ overall satisfaction with life, their anxiety levels, and presence of depressive symptoms.
Overall, the results revealed that an inappropriate level of parental control was associated with negative wellbeing among the students. Helicopter parenting behaviours were linked to higher levels of depression and decreased satisfaction with life. Also, children of helicopter parents experienced lower levels of perceived autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Consequently, causing the students with low levels of perceived autonomy and competence to be depressed.
Their researchers suggest that intense involvement with their child’s life may be considered ‘being supportive’ by parents, but it may actually be perceived as controlling and undermining by their children. Parents should keep in mind how developmentally appropriate their involvement is and learn to adjust their parenting style when their children feel that they are hovering too closely.