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Helicopter parenting backfires, study shows

College students are less engaged in school when parents hover

If your mom or dad has ever contacted one of your professors, intervened to settle a dispute with your roommates, or hunted for jobs on your behalf, they might be helicopter parents.

And new research by professors at Brigham Young University indicates that, despite their good intentions, helicopter parents’ overprotective nature might be the reason their children sometimes skip class and turn in assignments late.

Professors Laura Padilla-Walker and Larry Nelson studied 438 students from four universities around the country (BYU was not in the sample). About one-fourth of the students reported that parents "make important decisions for me." And about one-third of the parents reported that they make important decisions for their children.

In their analysis of the data, Padilla-Walker and Nelson found that this seems to backfire in terms of school engagement. As they write in the October issue of the Journal of Adolescence, this is about more than just homework.

“It would seem that emerging adults should be personally invested in their own growth and development by solving their own problems with roommates, making their own decisions about employment, and seeking their own help from professors,” write the study authors. “By not doing so, emerging adults may be robbing themselves of the experiences and practice necessary to develop skills that are essential for success in marriage, careers, and adult social interactions.”

Links for further reading:

USA Today: “Helicopter parents: Helping adult kids or taking over?”

Journal of Adolescence:“Black hawk down? Establishing helicopter parenting as a distinct construct from other forms of parental control during emerging adulthood”

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