published Monday, January 9th, 2012

UTC professors study the effects of helicopter parenting

ABOUT THE STUDY

• Title: "Does 'Hovering' Matter? Helicopter Parenting and Its Effect on Well-Being."

• Authors: Terri LeMoyne and Tom Buchanan, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

• Survey sample: More than 300 college students 25 years and younger taking general education classes at UTC.

Source: "Does "Hovering" Matter? Helicopter Parenting and Its Effect on Well-Being"


WHAT IS HELICOPTER PARENTING?

It refers to an overinvolvement of parents in their children's lives. This concept has typically been used to describe parents of college-age young adults.

It wasn't easy when Tina Hullender's 18-year-old daughter went to college, even if she was only going from Signal Mountain to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"We were bracing ourselves, getting ready that once she was in college she's there and we are here," Ms. Hullender said. "We can't be there all the time."

But separating from children is sometimes easier said than done.

A new study by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga professors found "hovering" or "helicopter parenting" can have a negative impact on the general well-being of a child. A child with hovering parents is more apt to be medicated for anxiety and/or depression, the study showed.

Sociology professors Terri LeMoyne and Tom Buchanan surveyed more than 300 students to determine the reach and effects of helicopter parenting.

Hullender kept herself from calling her daughter all day, every day, although sometimes it was tempting, she said. She kept in touch using social media.

"I'm friends with her on Facebook, so I would check Facebook and it would be my way of knowing 'oh good, she's alive, she's in her dorm right now, she's doing this or that," she said.

"She didn't realize I was, in a way, Facebook stalking her some of the time, but it was my way, as a mom, to know she was fine," she added.

But Hullender said she wouldn't call herself a "helicopter" parent. She would never consider sitting in on a job interview with her daughter, she said, and believes it's important for children to learn on their own.

"We are not always going to be there to help them," she said. "It's part of the real world."

The UTC study focuses on the millennial generation, generally those who graduated from high school in the year 2000 and after.

"While earlier generations of children would spend the day riding their bikes and playing outside with friends, completely out of reach of their parents, today's parents use the cellphone -- often called the electronic umbilical cord -- coupled with email, instant messaging and social-networking sites to constantly check on the whereabouts of their children," the study reports.

Buchanan, also acting department head of sociology, anthropology and geography, talked about the study:

Q: What prompted you to conduct this study?

A: As professors, we began to experience some really good students that were very capable, excellent at turning in their assignments ... but when it came to independent decisions, if you didn't give them concrete directions, it seemed they were uneasy at times.

We started to get calls from parents, and students would come in to talk about grades with their parents. It was a new experience for me.

Q: What did you try to do with this study?

A: We tried to measure this helicopter parenting idea ... and if it exists, so what? Why does it matter? We wanted to see if there are any consequences.

Q: What are some examples of "helicopter" parenting?

A: One thing that helicopter parents do that we [the researchers] feel may not be healthy for kids and young adults is that they micro-manage to the extent they are doing stuff for their kids, like negotiating grades. You hear news stories about parents going to job interviews with their post-baccalaureate kids and trying to negotiate with employers for better pay.

Q: Did anything surprise you about the results?

A: I wouldn't say we were surprised by the findings. It supported what we felt. One of our hypotheses was that helicopter parenting would be related to lower psychological well-being.

Q: Why are we hearing about this now?

A: I think maybe a lot of it could have to do with generational changes. Obviously the economy is a big topic, and one popular trend people talk about is that kids growing up now is the first generation to potentially not do as well, at least financially, as their parents. There's a lot of pressure on education success.

Q: How do you know if you are "hovering"?

A: If you find yourself as a parent of a college student emailing a professor, you really need to think about that. Sometimes it's appropriate, but most of the time the issue can be addressed by the child.

If you find yourself calling your kid's employer, you have to re-evaluate "is it something my child could do on their own," because they are not going to do it if you are going to do it for them.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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