Helicopter parents — forever hovering around their children, paying close attention to every detail and experience, closely monitoring the education situation. No child wants their privacy held captive, yet helicopter parenting continues to be a much-referenced term even when that child becomes an adult.
Is it bad? Many believe it shows extra love and care, but a study conducted in 2010 by psychology professor Neil Montgomery of Keene State College in New Hampshire demonstrates how detrimental it can be to a child’s adult life. In all, 300 college freshmen nationwide were surveyed to analyze the impact of helicopter parents on a student’s life, and the findings were concerning. They were less open to new ideas, more vulnerable, more stressed, and more self-conscious than those without helicopter parents — called free-rangers.
Another test in 2011 found that students with helicopter parents were more likely to be medicated for mental health issues. But these findings were just the beginning, as more research studies continue to unravel alarming results.
Fear of failure stems from the parents having a fear of failure
Many of us place unwarranted pressure on ourselves to perform. If we fail, we criticize ourselves. But when there are helicopter parents involved, the fear of failure has additional spectators. Why did you fail? How did you fail? The extra pressure of performing for someone else can create psychological issues before a test or assignment has even begun.
They have limited opportunities for self-growth
In a 2012 study, it was found that people under the hover of helicopter parents had problems with developing into independent adults due to the limited opportunities for self-growth in their earlier years. With reliance on the parent, students struggle with autonomy and engagement. Their choices in college are also restricted, as many find themselves studying subjects they don’t enjoy due to the pressures of a parent.
Overall they’re less satisfied with their lives
A 2013 study found that students with controlling parents had higher levels of depression and less enjoyment of life. Autonomy and competency levels were down, meaning the helicopter method decreased happiness not just in college life, but overall. It is a violation of a student’s needs, and even though the parents may do everything out of love and care, the effects can plague a person for the rest of their adult lives.
They often struggle to cope with change
Flowing on from the cited studies, the levels of anxiety in the students with helicopter parents means they have a tough time accepting and adapting to change. Moving away from their parents for the first time to live at college is daunting because there are chores such as cooking, cleaning, and other adult duties that must be performed to survive. A lack of skills in these areas creates worry, and worry leads to anxiety and depression. Change isn’t desired by helicopter parents either, so the cycle continues and means rather than focusing on study, the child now focuses on the difficulties of life.
Their creativity is killed
Telling a child that loves drawing to play the piano — this is a classic helicopter-parent move, and the examples are endless. If a child is told that they shouldn’t do something because it is worthless, they will try to make the parent happy by adopting a hobby or job that makes the parent proud. But this halts natural ability and means it will not be nurtured further to become a profession. Helicopter parents have an image of how they want their son or daughter to turn out, and every aspect of their parenting points to this goal. Once in college, and without parents dictating moves, the love of that creative talent will likely have disintegrated.
Helicopter parents struggled themselves, so the pressures are left to the child. As found in Montgomery’s 2010 study, fear of failure stems from the parents having a fear of failure. It may be the angry father during a preteen football match who struggled himself during his early years, or the pushy mother that believes her child should dance because she did ballet; as the helicopter parent lives vicariously through the experiences of their child, they heap on further pressure to ensure they perform.
A 2014 study found that children with helicopter parents have lesser executive function capabilities. That is, for example, the ability to change activities, to delay gratification, and to stop themselves from yelling when angered. These capabilities predict future wealth, health, and academic success.
So, the results are in: students with helicopter parents have a higher tendency to struggle in college… and in life.