Helicopter parenting
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Parents who are too involved in their children's lives as they prepare to enter college could be inadvertently hampering their transition into adulthood, causing them to become depressed and experience anxiety during this crucial period, according to a newly-published study.

While it is important for mom and dad to help out as young adults prepare to leave home for the first time, intervening too much in decision making and becoming helicopter parents could have serious mental health implications, researchers from Florida State University reported in a paper now available online and scheduled to be published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.

"Helicopter parents are parents who are overly involved," FSU doctoral candidate Kayla Reed, who co-authored the new study along with assistant family and child sciences professor Mallory Lucier-Greer and others, explained in a statement. "They mean everything with good intentions, but it often goes beyond supportive to intervening in the decisions of emerging adults."

The term "helicopter parenting" is typically applied to adolescents and pre-teens, but Reed and her colleagues examined how college-age (18- to 25-year-old) students are affected by the over-involvement of their parents, and found that such behavior could both harm their emotional and physical wellbeing, resulting in increased levels of anxiety and depression as well as a reduced ability to handle difficult life tasks or make key decisions on their own.

parrent and child
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Parents should help their children through life, but there needs to be a balance between assistance and independence for the child's mental health.
Parental over-involvement can reduce self-efficacy, lead to depression

The study authors surveyed more than 460 college students, asking each to measure how their mothers influenced their life decisions based on how she would respond to different scenarios. Moms were chosen because they tend to act as the primary caregivers in families, they said.

Students were also asked to assess their own ability to manage difficult situations or cope with complicated tasks, and found that those men and women whose moms allowed them to be more autonomous reported higher levels of life satisfaction, physical health and self-efficacy (or the ability to handle tougher life tasks or make difficult decisions on their own).

On the other hand, students whose mothers were "helicopter parents" were more likely to self-report low levels of self-efficacy, increased levels of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of overall life satisfaction and physical health. The authors said that they hope to expand upon their research by looking at parental behavior as young adults prepare to enter the workforce for the first time.

"The way your parents interact with you has a lot to do with how you view yourself. 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," said Lucier-Greer. "I think there are good intentions behind those helicopter behaviors, but at the end of the day you need to foster your child's development."