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Helicopter Parenting Effects: KIDS and Young Adults.

The effects of helicopter parenting in younger kids are well-known, but a new generation of young adults is now seeking therapy, having left home, and are finding it challenging to live in an overparenting-free world. This excessive involvement in children’s lives can hinder their development, affect their ability to thrive later in life, and prevent them from learning to navigate the world on their own.

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helicopter parent effects

Author: Oliver Drakeford, LMFT, CGP

The effects of helicopter parenting in younger kids are well-known, but a new generation of young adults is now seeking therapy, having left home, and are finding it challenging to live in an overparenting-free world. This excessive involvement in children’s lives can hinder their development, affect their ability to thrive later in life, and prevent them from learning to navigate the world on their own.

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with nearly a decade’s worth of experience working with parents, teens, and families, I’ve seen my fair share of helicopter parents in my private practice and as the Clinical Director of a residential treatment center for adolescents.

Today, I work full-time in my private practice and am seeing an increasing number of young adults, who report a variety of vague symptoms that are tricky to define or summarize. What seems to unite some of these people seems to be the impact of over-parenting or having helicopter parents. From my very small sample size, I find that these clients seem somewhat lost in terms of career or direction and occasionally seem to not know how to handle certain life decisions, which seems different from young adults with other parents with different parenting styles.

I’ve been studying ‘helicopter parenting effects’ and have compiled some of the research and studies that I found worthy of highlighting.

am i a helicopter parent?

The Psychology Of Being A Helicopter Parent

Helicopter parents are not inherently bad parents; their actions are driven by a genuine desire to ensure the well-being and success of their children. However, this well-meaning intention can sometimes manifest as excessive involvement and control, with parents making decisions on behalf of their children and closely monitoring their every move.

The belief that vigilant parenting equates to good parenting stems from a genuine desire to protect children from risks and dangers, but it’s also fueled by anxiety. In my experience, this anxiety sometimes stops helicopter parents from recognizing their children’s need for independence and freedom, which evolves as they grow older.

Other types of helicopter parents tend to see their children as reflections of themselves and may push them to achieve unfulfilled dreams and aspirations, regardless of the child’s own desires. Some helicopter parents go to great lengths to ensure their children excel academically to enhance their own social status. Viewing a child as an extension of oneself rather than as an individual can impede their development during adolescence and young adulthood.

The concept of helicopter parenting has garnered significant attention in academic circles and requires further study and guidance. While the underlying causes of this parenting style are not yet fully understood, recent research has begun to shed light on potential contributing factors. Early studies suggest that what contributes to helicopter parents is parental anxiety, parental regret, and gender dynamics may play a role in driving helicopter parenting behaviors. However, more research is needed to understand this phenomenon comprehensively.

Parental Anxiety and Helicopter Parenting

One significant psychological factor contributing to helicopter parenting is parental anxiety, which can often push parents to be more controlling but it stems from concerns about a dangerous world rife with abuse, kidnapping, and bullying. What makes parents hover is this anxiety can lead parents to exert excessive control over their children, limiting their participation in everyday activities like outdoor play and socializing.

The helicopter parent will often overestimate a child’s vulnerability, which can result in stifling their physical and social development. Media and technology further exacerbate parental anxiety by constantly highlighting potential threats in society, prompting helicopter parents to become overly protective, particularly if there's an only child involved. . This anxiety can limit children's opportunities to develop essential life skills such as resilience, self-confidence, and emotional regulation.

Parental anxiety can be intensified by past experiences, such as a minor accident, leading to an overbearing sense of fear and caution. This anxiety can manifest in children experiencing separation anxiety, particularly when transitioning to new stages of independence, like going off to college. Research suggests that parents with high separation anxiety tend to exert greater psychological control over their children, further perpetuating the cycle of helicopter parenting.

helicopter parenting effects on children

20 Shocking Helicopter Parenting Can Impact A Child's Life.

Here are some of the more alarming effects that helicopter parents can have that are noted in journals and studies. Helicopter parenting can negatively impact a child's ability to regulate emotions and behavior, develop independence, and make decisions.

The Anxiety Epidemic:  

Children of helicopter parents are prone to higher levels of anxiety and tend to use inappropriate coping styles. This parenting style makes kids feel like they are under a microscope, leading to heightened anxiety and overwhelming fear. As these children grow, they are more likely to develop anxiety disorders due to their inability to manage stress independently. Socially anxious children often emerge from this constant parental oversight, affecting their overall mental health and emotional development. (A Systematic Review of "Helicopter Parenting" and Its Relationship, 2022)

Self-Esteem At An All Time Low:  

Studies have found that children who experience helicopter parenting often have low self-esteem and decreased academic performance. Helicopter parents tend to prevent kids from developing a strong sense of self, leading to a lack of confidence in their abilities. This low self-esteem can negatively affect their decision-making skills and overall emotional development, leaving them ill-prepared to handle the challenges of adult life. (Helicopter parenting, from good intentions to poor outcomes. What, 2022)

Toddler Meltdowns Predict Teen Breakdowns:  

Research shows that overcontrolling parenting when a child is two years old is associated with poorer emotional and behavioral regulation by age five. This lack of emotional control in the early years sets the stage for problems handling stress as a teen and young adult, leading to serious consequences in their emotional development. Such early life experiences can shape how children deal with their own emotions in later years. (The effects of helicopter parenting on academic motivation.)

Failure to Launch: Helicopter Parents Raise Helpless Young Adults:  

Helicopter parenting is often associated with low levels of self-efficacy in emerging adults. Young people question their own abilities and lack confidence in their skills when parents constantly step in to help. This dependency hinders their ability to face challenges independently, resulting in a prolonged transition to adult life and self-sufficiency. Over-involved parenting styles often leave young people helpless and unprepared for real-world problems. (HELICOPTER PARENTING EFFECTS ON MILLENNIAL'S DAILY, 2017)

The Looming Mental Health Crisis on College Campuses:  

College students who reported having over involved parents experienced significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression, emotional challenges, and less satisfaction with life. As more children of helicopter parents reach college age, campus counseling centers are seeing an influx of students struggling with mental health problems. This trend underscores the long-term effects of helicopter parenting on young adults' psychological well-being and their ability to cope with stress and anxiety. (The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Academic Motivation, 2017)

Self-Confidence Nose-Dives:  

Helicopter parents tend to interfere with their child's development by compromising their ability to develop a sense of competence. When parents constantly shadow their kids, it conveys the message that they don't have faith in their child's abilities and they don't learn essential life skills. This chips away at self-confidence over time, leading children to doubt their capabilities and avoid taking on new challenges. The lack of trust in their own decision-making skills results in a perpetual state of self-consciousness and low self-esteem. . (The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Academic Motivation, 2017)

Is it a Generation of Quitters?:  

Poor self-regulation is one of the primary negative effects of helicopter parenting. Children of helicopter parents are less able to adapt to the complex school environment and navigate social interactions. At the first sign of trouble, they want to quit rather than persevere, lacking the resilience needed to overcome obstacles and achieve long-term goals. This inability to handle challenging demands effectively is a significant drawback of helicopter parenting. (Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Tutoring Engagement, 2022)

The Domino Effect:  

Overparenting has been found to relate to a wide range of issues for children, including mental health problems, school burnout, and poor relationships with others. Helicopter parenting can impair a child’s ability to regulate emotions and behavior, leading to an underdevelopment of problem-solving and decision-making skills. The negative impacts spill over into all areas of a child’s life, creating a cascading effect of challenges that are difficult to overcome without significant support and intervention.

The overall development of the child is compromised, leading to various emotional and behavioral problems. Negative parent-child interactions can lead to difficulties in emotional regulation and behavior, making it hard for children to adapt to school situations and form friendships. (HELICOPTER PARENTING EFFECTS ON MILLENNIAL'S DAILY, 2017)

Is it Paving the Road to Substance Abuse and Addiction?:  

The effects of helicopter parenting are associated with an enhanced vulnerability to stressors, lowered intrinsic motivation, higher levels of mental health and behavior problems, physical health issues, substance abuse, and lower life satisfaction. The inability to cope with stress makes kids more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of escape and self-medication. Helicopter parenting can thus indirectly contribute to substance abuse problems in young adults .A study published in the journal of Developmental Psychology explores the impact of helicopter parenting on children's emotional and behavioral development.

The Making of a Me-Monster: Breeding Narcissism and Entitlement:  

Young adults with helicopter parents are more likely to disengage from their career goals and aspirations. They engage in less career exploration behavior overall. Having things handed to them makes them less motivated to discover and pursue their own passions, leading to unfulfilled career potential and dissatisfaction in their professional lives.

This lack of career direction and drive is a notable consequence of over-involved parenting styles. A study from the journal 'J Child Fam Stud' explores the impact of helicopter parenting on career aspirations. . (HELICOPTER PARENTING EFFECTS ON MILLENNIAL'S DAILY, 2017)

Career Dreams are Nightmares:  

Young adults with helicopter parents are more likely to disengage from their career goals and aspirations. They engage in less career exploration behavior overall. Having things handed to them makes them less motivated to discover and pursue their own passions, leading to unfulfilled career potential and dissatisfaction in their professional lives.

Affection vs. Achievement:  

Helicopter Parenting can promote more career goal disengagement and less career exploration, particularly for young people with a high need for parental approval. They choose paths to please parents rather than following their own dreams, for fear of losing their parents' love and support. This misalignment between personal desires and parental expectations can lead to career dissatisfaction and a lack of fulfillment in their professional lives.

The Isolating Effects of Helicopter Parenting:  

Studies have found that having helicopter parents can positively predict social avoidance among emerging adults. Having parents always by their side hinders the development of social skills and makes their children's lives more stressful and it's been found that young people more likely to avoid interactions with peers. This social isolation can impede their ability to build meaningful relationships and support networks, leaving them socially anxious and lacking essential social skills.

Smothered, Stifled, and Separation:  

Excessive parental contact during the university years can negatively impact students’ college experience and development of independence. Constant communication and monitoring make it difficult for young adults to truly separate and individuate. This stifling presence inhibits their ability to make age-appropriate choices, fully engage in the college experience, and learn essential life skills, affecting their emotional and social growth. (Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Tutoring Engagement, 2022)

Academic Crash and Burn:

Research links helicopter parenting with school burnout in emerging adult children. The pressure of parental expectations and the lack of self-motivation lead to students feeling overwhelmed and disengaged from their studies. This academic burnout can have long-lasting effects on their educational and career trajectories, making it difficult for them to achieve their full potential. (Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Tutoring Engagement, 2022)

The Loss of the College Experience:

Overparenting is associated with poor relationships with others in emerging adult children. When parents are overly involved, it gets in the way of young adults learning to form healthy friendships and romantic partnerships. This lack of social development can hinder their ability to create supportive and fulfilling relationships, which are crucial for personal growth and emotional well-being.

Anxiety and Depression in Emerging Adulthood:

Overparenting or helicopter parenting is associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety in emerging adult children. The lack of autonomy and independence during a critical period of self-discovery contributes to mental health challenges. These young adults often struggle to cope with life’s demands without the constant support of their parents, leading to increased anxiety and depression. Allowing children to experience challenges can teach kids resilience and emotional regulation.

Languishing Instead of Flourishing:

Studies show overparenting is associated with lower ratings of life satisfaction in emerging adult children. Despite material comfort and support, they lack the internal resources and self-determination needed to thrive. This dissatisfaction can lead to a sense of unfulfillment and stagnation in their personal and professional lives, preventing them from truly flourishing.

The Slippery Slope:

Research has found that helicopter parenting is associated with substance abuse problems in emerging adult children. The inability to handle stress and tendency towards escapist behaviors makes them vulnerable to drug and alcohol misuse. This reliance on substances as a coping mechanism can lead to long-term addiction issues and further mental health challenges, exacerbating the negative effects of helicopter parenting. Unlike other parents, helicopter parents often struggle more with allowing their children to handle stress and develop independence.

Causes: Parental Regret and Helicopter Parenting

Regret, characterized by feelings of dejection, disappointment, and sadness over unmet goals, is a significant driver behind helicopter parenting. This emotion often stems from parents reflecting on alternative paths they did not take. Regret manifests in two primary ways that contribute to over-involved parenting.

Firstly, regret involves acknowledging past negative experiences and poor decisions. Parents might attempt to fulfill their unrealized ambitions through their children, leading to excessive involvement in their lives. This can include dictating academic or lifestyle choices, although not all parents are overly controlling.

Secondly, parents may regret not spending enough quality time with their children as they were growing up. As children become more independent, parents might feel an intensified urge to be emotionally and physically available, leading to heightened anxiety and over-involvement.

Thus, regret indirectly fosters helicopter parenting. Future studies will examine culture as another influential factor in this parenting style.

Does Culture Impact Helicopter Behaviors?

Culture, encompassing a society’s shared beliefs, customs, traditions, and social behaviors, significantly influences parenting styles. Research indicates that cultural heritage shapes parenting practices, with notable differences between Western and Eastern approaches.

Western parents generally promote independence, while Eastern or Asian cultures often emphasize interdependence.

These differences are rooted in cultural norms, ethnicities, and values. Comparative studies within the same country highlight these cultural variations.

For example, Caucasian Americans typically value freedom of expression, self-sufficiency, and individuality. In contrast, Asian Americans prioritize parental control, dependency, and social standing. Asian parents often view their children as extensions of themselves, fostering obedience, family orientation, reliability, and good manners. This pressure can lead to psycho-behavioral effects such as anxiety, entitlement, and narcissism.

Asian parents tend to adopt an authoritarian parenting style similar to helicopter parenting, marked by strictness and a lack of warmth, especially during significant transitions like entering college. Conversely, Western parents often view this approach as potentially detrimental to a child’s development, preferring an authoritative style characterized by greater warmth and acceptance.

Gender and Helicopter Parenting

The impact of gender on parenting style has garnered recent research interest. Studies suggest that mothers and fathers often employ different parenting approaches and that sons and daughters are parented differently.

Many parents believe boys and girls should be raised differently. Boys are often parented more assertively, while girls typically receive more warmth, empathy, and kindness. Overinvolvement by helicopter mothers can potentially lead to clinical anxiety in children. Boys may interpret this overparenting as caring and liberating, whereas girls might see it as controlling, resulting in feelings of incompetence.

Young adults tend to have a stronger connection with their mothers and communicate more with them, making mothers more likely to become helicopter parents than fathers. Children often view fathers’ involvement as caring but see similar behavior from mothers as suffocating and overwhelming.

These perceptions may arise from societal gender stereotypes that depict parenting as primarily a woman’s role, while men are seen as financial providers. Consequently, children might associate their father’s increased involvement as an expression of love, while a constantly present and caring mother is perceived as a helicopter mom. These differing attitudes towards parenting stem from the gender roles and expectations ingrained in society.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is a Helicopter Parent?

Helicopter parenting refers to a parenting style where caregivers are overly involved in their children's lives. This intense focus, often driven by anxiety, can negatively impact a child's mental health, self-esteem, and coping skills. Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, explains, "They typically take too much responsibility for their children's experiences and, specifically, their successes or failures." Dr. Dunnewold, Ph.D., adds, "It means being involved in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and over perfecting, in excess of responsible parenting." It prevents children from making age appropriate choices.

What Causes Helicopter Parenting?

Helicopter parenting often stems from anxiety or fear, as parents attempt to protect their children from life's risks and challenges. Various factors can contribute to this parenting style, including inadequate attachment during the parent's childhood, unresolved grief or trauma, and a lack of secure attachment in the parent-child relationship. Social pressures to ensure children succeed academically or socially can also drive helicopter parenting.

How To Avoid Helicopter Parenting?

To avoid being a helicopter parent, it's crucial for parents to understand and acknowledge their own anxiety and its origins. Recognizing how anxiety manifests in their parenting style is also essential. Striking a balance between protecting, loving, and supporting children while allowing them to navigate challenges and sometimes fail is the ultimate goal. The Grounded Parenting Course is an anti-anxiety program designed to help parents achieve this balance.

Are There Any Negative Outcomes To Helicopter Parenting?

Yes, research increasingly shows that parental anxiety can cause emotional problems, and adversely affect a child's emotional development, lower coping skills. Studies have linked helicopter parenting to clinical anxiety, social anxiety, fewer life skills, and even antisocial behavior in college students and young adults.

How Do I Know If I'm a Helicopter Parent?

You can find out by taking our quiz, which includes questions about anxiety levels and parenting styles. This quiz can help you understand how anxiety, worry, and stress might be influencing your parenting. Take the quiz here: [Quiz](

Buchanan, T., & LeMoyne, T. (2011). Does “hovering” matter? Helicopter parenting and its effect on well-being. Sociological Spectrum, 31, 399-418. doi: 10.1080/02732173.2011.574038

Cline, F. W., & Fay, J. (1990). Parenting with love and logic: Teaching children responsibility. Colorado Springs, CO: Pinon.

Connidis, I. A., & McMullin, J. A. (2002). Sociological ambivalence and family ties: A cricital perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 558-567. doi: 10.1111/j.1741 3737.2002. 00558.x

Douce, L. A., & Keeling, R. P. (2014). A strategic primer on college student mental health. Retrieved from the American Psychological Association website. access/2014/10-14/college-mental-health.pdf.

Fingerman, K. L., Cheng, Y., Wesselmann, E. D., Zarit, S., Furstenberg, F., & Birditt, K. S. (2012). Helicopter parents and landing pad kids: Intense parental support of grown children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 880-896. doi: 10.1111/j.17413737.2012.00987.x

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