The notion of helicopter parenting has become more prevalent and largely associated with parents of young children. A new Florida State University (FSU) study finds helicopter parenting continues well into young adulthood and can have devastating impacts on college students. Here’s what parents should consider when it comes to guiding their children towards self-sufficiency, coping and adulthood.
The FSU study surveyed over 400 college students and found a direct correlation between helicopter parenting and student burnout. Ross W. May, PhD — co-author of the study, and a research assistant professor and associate director of The Florida State University Family Institute — defines it for Parentology as, “Helicopter parenting involves parenting behaviors considered overinvolved, overprotective, and overcontrolling in respect to their child’s age and ability.”
For children to successfully mature into young adulthood, they need to develop and utilize self-control. As Parentology reported earlier this year, there have been studies showing a significant link in young children able to demonstrate self-control and future success. That self-control skill becomes more important as children age.
“Emerging adulthood is a time in which individuals assume more adult responsibilities, thus, helicopter parenting at this stage is likely to interfere with a healthy developmental trajectory,” May states.
Helicopter parenting essentially robs children of the opportunity to develop self-control and competently manage themselves and their emotions.
While most helicopter parents’ behavior begins as an attempt to ensure a child’s success, this research shows it may have the opposite effect.
Students lacking self-control often feel overwhelmed by the demands and stresses associated with college, which can lead to burnout.
“Burnout is a response to ongoing stress,” Professor Frank Fincham, an FSU Eminent Scholar and Director of the FSU Family Institute tells Parentology. “That’s important because it saps the student’s energy, reduces their productivity and leaves them with a diminished sense of accomplishment.”
Students suffering from burnout are more likely to have lower grades, drop out of school, and suffer from more severe conditions like anxiety or depression.
The study also revealed outcomes may be more severe depending on which parent is helicopter parenting.
May’s research found impacts of father’s that helicopter parent may be more significant. He believes this is largely an issue of societal perception of parental roles telling Parentology, “We believe helicopter parenting exhibited by the father may be more detrimental because, as a society, we’re more used to this behavior displayed by mothers.”
May continues, “When we observe helicopter parenting behaviors displayed by mothers, we might not give it a second thought, however, when we observe these behaviors among fathers, this may send signals of inadequacy and hinder motivation.”
How can parents know if their parenting is helpful or helicopter? May emphasizes there’s no “golden rule” to parenting because each child’s needs are different. Instead, May offers parents a way to check themselves, “Broadly speaking, helicopter parents do things for their children that they (the child) could do for themselves.”
Helping your child develop self-control and coping skills will take them into adulthood. One way to accomplish this — stepping back and letting them take over the lead.
Helicopter Parenting Effects — Sources
Florida State University News
Ross W. May, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Associate Director of The Florida State University Family Institute