Parents who tend to get overly involved in the affairs of their kids, may kindly note: Crossing the line between supportive and too involved could indirectly lead to issues such as depression and anxiety for young adults, a study says.
“Helicopter parents are parents who are overly involved,” said one of the researchers, Kayla Reed from Florida State University. “They mean everything with good intentions, but it often goes beyond supportive to intervening in the decisions of emerging adults,” Reed noted.
For the study, the researchers surveyed more than 460 college students, aged 18 to 25, about how their mothers influenced their life decisions by asking the students how their mothers would respond to sample situations. They specifically looked at mothers because they are traditionally in the primary caregiver role.
They also asked students to self-assess their abilities to persist in complicated tasks or adverse situations and then also rate their depression, life satisfaction, anxiety and physical health. Students who had mothers who allowed them more autonomy reported higher life satisfaction, physical health and self-efficacy.
However, students with a so-called helicopter parent were more likely to report low levels of self-efficacy, or the ability to handle some tougher life tasks and decisions. In turn, those who reported low levels of self-efficacy also reported higher levels of anxiety and depression, and lower life satisfaction and physical health.
The findings appeared online in the Journal of Child and Family Studies. “The way your parents interact with you has a lot to do with how you view yourself,” Mallory Lucier-Greer, Assistant Professor at Florida State University, said. “If parents are simply being supportive, they are saying things like ‘you can manage your finances, you can pick out your classes.’
It changes, if they are doing that all for you,” Lucier-Greer said. I think there are good intentions behind those helicopter behaviours, but at the end of the day you need to foster your child’s development,” she noted.