New research from China sheds light on the relationship between helicopter parenting and how students behave socially in college. The findings indicate that college students who reported experiencing helicopter parenting also experienced more interpersonal conflict with their peers. The origin of these conflicts seemed to be a sense of entitlement and a greater fear of missing out. This research is another piece of evidence that demonstrates the consequences of helicopter parenting.
The research was published in Healthcare.
Helicopter parenting, characterized by over-involvement, over-protection, and over-control, can lead to negative outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. The new study aimed to investigate the potential mechanism linking helicopter parenting to college students’ relationships and conflicts. The study was conducted in China, an ideal place to study helicopter parenting. The Chinese one-child-per-family policy has resulted in many parents working hard to ensure their only child succeeds.
Ting Nie and colleagues conducted a two-round survey among college students in Macau, China. In the first round, they collected data on demographic information, helicopter parenting, and interpersonal conflict. In the second round, they measured psychological entitlement and fear of missing out.
The total number of questionnaires distributed was 800, of which 694 valid questionnaires were recovered. In the second round of data collection, the questionnaires were distributed to the same group of participants, and 505 valid questionnaires were recovered.
The results of the study show that helicopter parenting is indirectly related to interpersonal conflict among college students. Specifically, the research team found that helicopter parenting is positively related to psychological entitlement and the fear of missing out, which in turn is positively related to interpersonal conflict.
In other words, those who agreed with statements such as “My parents will help me with any crisis or problem I may encounter” were more likely to also agree with statements such as “I deserve more from life” and “I’m afraid that my friends have more experience than I do.” Students with greater entitlement and fear of missing out, meanwhile, tended to report experiencing more interpersonal conflict, such as getting into arguments with their peers.
The researchers also found that the indirect effect of helicopter parenting on interpersonal conflict was stronger when the students felt competitive and pressured to compare their academic success with their fellow classmates.
The authors acknowledge several limitations of their study. First, the study was conducted in a specific cultural context and may not be generalizable to other cultures. Second, the study relied on self-reported data, possibly subject to social desirability bias. Third, the study did not measure other variables that may influence the relationship between helicopter personality traits, family dynamics, and cultural values.
But the study’s findings have important implications for parents, educators, and policymakers. Parents should be aware of the negative consequences of helicopter parenting, like overestimation of abilities, excessive self-focus, and a lack of autonomy, and strive to strike a balance between involvement and autonomy. Educators should also be aware of the impact of helicopter parenting on students’ relationships and conflicts and provide support and guidance to students. Policymakers should consider the impact of family policies on parenting practices and provide resources and support to families.
“As an emerging parenting style, helicopter parenting has gained widespread attention in recent years. In particular, with birth rates declining and family sizes decreasing worldwide, helicopter parenting is likely to become more prevalent,” the researchers concluded.
“Some studies have reported certain negative effects of helicopter parenting; however, to date, its underlying influence mechanisms remain unclear. Our results show that it not only exerts short-term effects on the cognition and behavior of adolescents, but also generates long-term effects on aspects such as work and marriage in adulthood. Future studies may consider follow-up interviews or use longitudinal data to gain a comprehensive understanding of the role that helicopter parenting plays throughout an individual’s life.”
“In addition, the causes of helicopter parenting are worth exploring in depth. Personal traits, regional policies, social pressures, and family characteristics may all contribute to helicopter parenting, which needs to be verified in future studies.”
The study, “An investigation of helicopter parenting and interpersonal conflict in a competitive college climate“, was authored by Ting Nie, Mingyang Cai, and Yan Chen.