How ‘helicopter parenting’ is harming our children

Are you over-involved in your children’s lives? Do you make decisions for them, solve their problems and sort out their conflicts? Then you’re considered a helicopter parent, and there are claims that this type of parenting can have a detrimental impact on children. 

While not the first study on helicopter parenting, the latest research from Utah-based Brigham Young University indicates that ‘parental warmth’  doesn’t negate the impact of helicopter parenting. And a lack of warmth can have an even worse impact – including lower self-worth and higher risk behaviour, like binge drinking.

In 2012, research found that children who are subjected to helicopter parenting are less engaged in school. This latest round of research is a follow-up, and according to study author Larry Nelson, “From our past work, we thought there might be something positive about helicopter parenting under certain conditions, but we’re just not finding it”.

When considering ‘parental warmth’, researchers measured it by the parent’s availability to talk and spend time with their children.

The research was based on data collected from 438 undergraduate students at four universities, who self-reported on whether their parents had controlling behaviour, their warmth, their own self-esteem, risk behaviours and academics.

The study indicated that a lack of warmth resulted in a decrease in self-worth and an increase in risk behaviour, in the children of helicopter parents. Also, while a high level of parental warmth reduced the negative impacts, it didn’t completely remove them.

“Overall, stepping in and doing for a child what the child developmentally should be doing for him or herself, is negative,” says Mr Nelson. “Regardless of the form of control, it’s harmful at this time period.”

This type of research has, however, attracted criticism. Canterbury Christ Church University’s Jennie Bristow says,”…when it comes to the demands of today’s parenting culture, they really can’t do right for doing wrong. The complaint about “helicopter parenting” simplifies a difficult cultural problem – widespread societal anxiety about allowing children to grow up – and presents it as a question of individual parents’ attitudes and behaviours”.

Subscribe to Babyology

Our email newsletters keep you up to date with what’s happening on Babyology.

We also have special newsletter-only offers and competitions that are exclusive to Babyology subscribers.

Sign up below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to a friend