General News — 21 February 2013
Helicopter parenting circles depression

Helicopter parents may be more than just a hovering annoyance for university students, with new research suggesting overbearing parenting hampers the child’s need to take control of their own lives.

The US study of 130 mental health workers and teachers measured the degree of helicopter versus supportive parenting (by mothers specifically) among almost 300 college students and screened for depression, anxiety, satisfaction with life and basic psychological need to feel in control of their own lives. Students who reported their mothers were over-controlling had significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction with life, the researchers from the University of Mary Washington found.

By undermining a student’s need to feel autonomous and competent, helicopter parenting was a “perceived violation of students’ basic psychological needs”, lead author Associate Professor Holly Schiffrin and colleagues reported in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.

This intense parenting style,where mothers monitor who their grown child spends time with, tracks their schoolwork, exercise and diet, manages their finances, and calls and texts incessantly is on the rise, the US authors said.

And it seems Australian parents may not be hovering too far behind, with a recent Queensland University of Technology (QUT) finding more than 90% of school psychologists and counsellors reported encountering helicopter or ‘lawnmower’ parenting.

Of those surveyed, more than a quarter reported seeing ”many” instances of overparenting, according tothe study published in the Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling. Instances of overbearing parenting included a parent cutting up a 10-year-old’s food and forbidding a 17-year-old to catch a train to school.

“Parenting professionals are concerned overparenting reduces a child’s resilience and life skills because they’ve never had to face any difficulties,” lead Researcher from QUT Judith Locke said.

Whether it be hovering, mowing or, the latest incarnation- tiger parenting, Ms Locke told Psychiatry Update it has always existed but these days it is “virtually perceived as being ideal parenting, the most loving form of parenting”, and a growing headache for teachers who have to manage parents’ extreme expectations.

Ms Locke saw the US study findings as “the next stage of overparenting” and a look at things to come for parents of school age children in Australia.

As first appeared in Psychiatry Update, 20 February 2013

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