‘Helicopter’ parenting depresses college students: Study

While some parental involvement can help children develop, too much hovering can stir up anxiety and depression in them, according to a new study.

Researcher Kayla Reed of the Florida State University said that helicopter parents are parents who are overly involved, adding that they mean everything with good intentions, but it often goes beyond supportive to intervening in the decisions of emerging adults.

Reed and researcher Mallory Lucier-Greer write that what has been called ‘helicopter parenting’ can have a meaningful impact on how young adults see themselves and whether they can meet challenges or handle adverse situations.

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.

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.

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.”