Helicopter parents harm their children

Overprotective, hyper-vigilant, ever-watchful: the so-called helicopter parents never let go of their offspring. A new study reveals how this tendency could impair the psychological well-being of children.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Helicopter parents harm their children - NewsMavens
Parents. Pixabay

Why this story matters:

Overly caring parents do not help their child become independent. In fact, it's quite the opposite, a study finds. 

According to the results, children who are constantly monitored by their parents at a very young age have trouble controlling their emotions later in life. 

Scientists also believe this leads to behavioral problems in school.

In an interview with Der Standard, developmental psychologist and co-author of the study Lilly Shanahan acknowledges that the phenomenon of helicopter parents varies significantly depending on the cultural context:

"My impression is that, within the same socioeconomic background, children from the US are much more supervised than in Switzerland, but the US is also a country where children are more exposed to violence and crime."

The cultural context is, of course, reflected in the laws of a given country. For example, in some US states, it is forbidden by law to leave a child alone at home. 

"In Switzerland, it is important for children to go to school alone in their early school years, or to stay home alone or go shopping on their own -- something that is actually not possible in the US."

The news is relevant for readers in Austria, where the number of over-anxious parents has spiked in recent years. Whether in Austria, Switzerland or America, the scientific evidence is clear: parents who never let go of their children's hand rob them of a valuable developmental experience.

Details from the story:

  • In the course of the long-term study, scientists tracked how much mothers interfere in the play behavior of their offspring in early childhood.
  • Researchers then compared this data with an analysis of how the children developed.
  • The study found that two-year-olds with more controlling mothers had, once they reached the age of 5, more difficulty than other children in regulating emotions and impulses in complex and challenging situations.
  • Lilly Shanahan is an Associate Professor of Clinical Developmental Psychology at the Psychological Institute of the University of Zurich.

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