Overinvolved ‘Helicopter Parenting’ Leaves Children Unable To Manage Emotions, Child Study Finds

Children don’t come with instruction manuals. Parenting can be a difficult assignment, primarily because every child is different. There isn’t a magical blueprint to follow that guarantees a child will develop into a content and thriving adult.

Parenting styles differ dramatically across the globe and are driven by cultural norms. Researchers have been able to outline end results based on observing styles of parenting through the years. These are not certainties, but rather probabilities that are supported by statistics and surveillance.

A recent study found that children who have over-controlling “helicopter parents” aren’t as successful at managing their impulses and emotions as they age. The research team also found that parents who are over-involved create an increased likelihood of school-related issues.

Dr. Nicole Perry and her colleagues from the U.S. and Switzerland wrote about their findings in the journal Developmental Psychology. The researchers studied childhood self-regulation as a mechanism, where they took a close look at overcontrolling “helicopter” parenting of young children and how the parenting style associated with the child’s ability to adjust in preadolescence.

The study, which was based on the observation of 422 2-year-olds, took a look at mother involvement during a toddler-dominated play session. The team recorded how often the mothers demonstrated to their child what to do or how to act. The researchers then followed the progression of the children for eight years, recording data regarding their emotional and mental well-being.

The researchers invited the mother and child into a laboratory and presented them with an abundance of toys. They were asked to play for four minutes and then, over the next two minutes, they were asked to put the toys away. The team then recorded “to what degree the mothers took over” the task.

When the toddlers became school ready, ranging from age 5 to 10, the research team asked their educators to rate any issues the child may be exhibiting in school, such as depression, loneliness, anxiety, and grades. The teachers were also asked about the children’s social skills.

The results of the study suggest that “helicopter parenting” is linked to both their “children having less control over their own emotions and less control over their impulses by the age of five.”

Five-year-olds who displayed an inhibited control over their emotions had “worse social skills at the age of 10.” Decreased emotional management and behavior were also linked to poor academic performance. The study also found a link to “more emotional problems and poorer attitude to school.”

Parents who are minutely involved in their children’s day-to-day activities may do so from a place of love, as well as a strong desire to ensure a successful future. That being said, “helicopter parenting,” if continued throughout the child’s preadolescent years, could be having the opposite effect. Parents who meddle too much may actually be sabotaging the child’s ability to become a well-balanced individual.

In an interview with The Guardian, the study’s co-author Dr. Perry had the following to say.

“To foster emotional and behavioral skills parents should allow children to experience a range of emotions and give them space to practice and try managing these emotions independently and then guide and assist children when [or] if the task becomes too great.”

In regard to the recent research on “helicopter parenting,” Dr. Janet Goodall, from the University of Bath, stated that “while the study shows a connection between what they call over-controlling parenting and later issues, it doesn’t say that this is the cause of later issues, it says it goes along with it.”