Montana State University

Student Perspective: "Helicopter Parenting

College Office

Student Coordinator Miki Lowe Discusses "Helicopter Parenting" And A New Study About Its Effects

A recent study by Schiffrin et all has concluded that so called "helicopter parenting," defined as the over protective parenting of student away from home, particularly in college, has proven detremental to the mental health and well being of young adults.

The study called "Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students' Well-Being" is available through many library databases, but the abstract reads:

"Parental involvement is related to many positive child outcomes, but if not developmentally appropriate, it can be associated with higher levels of child anxiety and depression. Few studies have examined the effects of over-controlling parenting, or “helicopter parenting,” in college students. Some studies have found that college students of over-controlling parents report feeling less satisfied with family life and have lower levels of psychological well-being. This study examined self-determination theory as the potential underlying mechanism explaining this relationship. College students (N = 297) completed measures of helicopter parenting, autonomy supportive parenting, depression, anxiety, satisfaction with life, and basic psychological needs satisfaction. Students who reported having over-controlling parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction with life. Furthermore, the negative effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being were largely explained by the perceived violation of students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence."

Many of you have seen the commercial where a cleaning product works so well it gives the mom time to take the “Are You a Cool Mom” quiz in a magazine. I happened to Google this and found that it is indeed a real quiz. Well, we have a similar quiz for you that hopefully your cleaning products work fast enough to give you the time to take it. Our version for you is:

Are You A Helicopter Parent?

  1. How often do you communicate (text/call/email/facebook) with your student?

    A. Six times a day, maybe more. You lose track.

    B. Once a day

    C. Two or three times a week

    D. Once a week

  2. Have you called any campus office without your student’s consent or knowledge?

    A. Yes, I was very concerned and needed answers.

    B. Yes, because my student asked me to.

    C. Yes, but just to take care of something I’m responsible for.

    D. No, they’ve got it figured out.

  3. How often do you “consult” your student about school, social life, or their future?

    A. Any and every time they call

    B. Whenever they have a major issue

    C. Only when they ask for advice

    D. I encourage them to figure things out before helping

  4.  Are you friends with your student on Facebook?

    A. Of course! I check their page every day and leave lots of comments.

    B. No, my child won’t add me.

    C. Yes, but I only look from time to time.

    D. No, I don’t have Facebook/I didn’t try to friend him or her.

If you answered mostly A’s, you be at risk for being a helicopter parent. College is about trying out independence; we need our space to become responsible and take care of ourselves. Studies show that students with helicopter parents can actually be less satisfied with family life and have lower levels of psychological well-being. Read the above study for more information!

So, next time you need to check on us (as students) or tell us what to do, try taking a step back and let us handle things on our own. Remember that you raised us and we did pick up a thing or two from you; we may even surprise you at how well we turned out!

If you answered mostly B or C’s, you’re on a good track. You are there for us, but you also give us space. We are at a huge time in our life where we have to make a lot of decisions and make a lot of mistakes, so your support and reminders that you’re here to help can really help. Keep up what you’re doing but make sure it’s at the level your student wants and needs.

If you answered mostly D’s, you can probably send a little more love. Though we are trying to be independent, it’s nice to know mom and dad are still there to back us up and help us when we need it. Ask your student if there’s more you can do to help them navigate through college or if you can take some of the pressures of college off their shoulders, like helping us figure out our different options.

Now don’t get us wrong, there is a huge difference between loving your student and being a helicopter parent. Most (but secretly all) students appreciate the love and support you give us. And maybe even the relationship you have being a helicopter parent is what your child wants, just make sure you’re not smothering them.