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Hover No More

Helicopter parents may breed depression and incompetence in their children.


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sb10066991a-001.resizeHelicopter parents, stop hovering: it’s officially not good for your kids — especially if they’re already grown.

A new study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that being overly involved in your grown-up kids’ lives can do more harm than good. The research was conducted by the same scientists who showed last year that intensive parenting — constantly stimulating your children — can make moms more depressed.

You may think you’re doing good by phoning your kids’ college professor to haggle over the difference between a B+ and an A-, but that interference may be undermining their ability to problem-solve and fend for themselves. Constantly texting adult children and friending them on Facebook — letting them fly the coop but still demanding daily check-ins — is not exactly building a generation of confident and resilient grown-ups. And the problem only snowballs. “Parents are sending an unintentional message to their children that they are not competent,” says Holly Schiffrin, lead author and an associate professor of psychology at University of Mary Washington. “When adult children don’t get to practice problem-solving skills, they can’t solve these problems in the future.”

To reach this conclusion, Schiffrin and colleagues surveyed 297 college-age children about their parents, asking a barrage of questions: are your parents involved in selecting classes? Do they contact your professors about your grades (Schiffrin herself has been on the receiving end of such calls more than once)? Do they intervene if you have a roommate issue?

The students also reported on how satisfied they were with their lives, as well as their feelings of depression and anxiety. And they were questioned about the “self-determination theory,” which holds that every person has three basic needs in order to be happy: they must feel autonomous, competent and connected to other people.

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