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Overprotective Parenting: Helping Parents Provide Children the Right Amount of Risk and Responsibility

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Overprotective parenting in low-risk environments may have negative consequences for the psychosocial development of children and youth. Though not well studied, a number of different bodies of literature can be used to speculate on the reasons for overprotective parenting and the impact it has on children. In this article, the social and familial dynamics leading to overprotection are discussed. It is shown that overprotection among middle-class families may result from poorly informed parents regarding the psychosocial developmental needs of their children for risk and responsibility and a lack of familiarity with population-wide data which shows that many of today's youth are safer that at any previous time in history. Focusing on the “risk-taker's advantage,” this article uses a case example to illustrate a three-part model of intervention to help challenge overprotective parenting while opening up safe opportunities for youth to experience manageable amounts of risk and responsibility.
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... Yap et al. (2014, p. 11) defined overprotective parenting as parenting that interferes with 'children's age-normative autonomy and emotional independence and encouragement of excessive dependence on the parent'. Although overprotectiveness tends to involve the positive intention of maintaining one's child safety, the excessive focus on avoiding harm limits the child's opportunities for the development of healthy independence and psychosocial skills (Ungar, 2009). Overprotectiveness can reinforce avoidance and restrict opportunities for individuals to socialize and individuate, leading to increased vulnerability for psychological disorders, particularly anxiety (Betts et al., 2009;Gerull & Rapee, 2002;Schiffrin et al., 2019). ...
... Overprotectiveness can reinforce avoidance and restrict opportunities for individuals to socialize and individuate, leading to increased vulnerability for psychological disorders, particularly anxiety (Betts et al., 2009;Gerull & Rapee, 2002;Schiffrin et al., 2019). Overprotection and overindulgence have also been identified to correlate with poor mental health in adulthood (Ungar, 2009). ...
... sive responsibility and standards domain (maternal overprotective parenting range: r = 0.09, 95% CI = 0.02, 0.16 to r = 0.16, 95% CI = 0.06, 0.26; paternal overprotective parenting range: r = 0.09, 95% CI = 0.02, 0.16; to r = 0.09, 95% CI = 0.03, 0.15). The minimal relationship identified with this domain might be explained by the enmeshment and the undeveloped-self schema association, whereby the individual is consistently looking outwards to authority or parental figures to guide their own behaviour instead of inwards(Ungar, 2009).Alternatively, depending on an individual's culture, roles of the family may be more strongly emphasized over individual or social expectations. For instance, parents as an authority figure may be perceived as more important in collectivist cultures compared to individualistic cultures(Kemmelmeier et al., 2003). ...
Article
Young’s schema model identifies overprotection as a type of childhood experience associated with early maladaptive schemas. This review evaluated the evidence base examining overprotective parenting as a predictor of schema endorsement in adolescence and adulthood. A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines, and registered on PROSPERO (CRD42021258990). PsycINFO, CINAHL, and PubMed databases were searched on 5 June, 2021 for eligible studies reporting original data on unadjusted association(s) between overprotective parenting and schema endorsement in samples with a mean age of 12 years or older. Studies were excluded if they were not in English or peer reviewed, or participants were exposed to an intervention. Meta-analyses using Meta-Essentials software examined the relationship between maternal and paternal overprotective parenting with Young’s 18 schemas. An adapted version of the Appraisal tool for Cross-Sectional Studies (AXIS) was used to assess methodological quality. A total of 16 articles were included. Based on 36 meta-analyses (Pooled N =1496 to 3218), several schemas demonstrated positive small correlations with maternal overprotective parenting (range: r =.15, 95% CI= .10, .19 [Entitlement] to r =.29, 95% CI= 13, .43 [Enmeshment]) and paternal overprotective parenting (range: r =.15, 95% CI= .10, .20 [Abandonment] to r =.24, 95% CI= .10, .36 [Enmeshment]). Considerable heterogeneity was detected but subgroup analyses were not significant. Overall, recollections of overprotective parenting experiences were primarily associated with schemas relating to disconnection and rejection, and impaired autonomy and performance. However, the literature has thus far relied on retrospective measures of parenting, and longitudinal research is needed to establish causality.
... Overprotecting children, however, could contribute to their forming habits and attitudes that make their future behavior adjustments more difficult. For example, Ungar [62] advocates opening up safe opportunities for children and youth to experience manageable amounts of risk and responsibility. Since we are witnessing an increase in screen time among children, e.g., [61], and a decrease in the ability to think [50], perhaps it is suitable to provide opportunities to include children in some form of critical thinking around current global challenges -often not pleasant topics -as early and safely as possible. ...
... While the technological components of the installation needed to be designed well and work well, a large part of creating satisfying aesthetics consisted of negotiation of the mood associated with the treatment of the topic. A particularly relevant aspect of this became the level of 'darkness' of the mood that is appropriate for children to ensure that the installation worked within the margins of manageable risks [62]. ...
... A dark mood, such as the one in Figure 2 a), does not imply that children should not be exposed to conversations around such themes. It does, however, imply that more care might be needed [58] toward creating meaningful reflections and managing potential risk situations [62]. ...
... This is mainly due to reasons such as parents' sense of responsibility and safety concerns (Valentine & McKendrck, 1997;Weir, Etelson, & Brand, 2006). Children are raised with overprotective adult attitudes, and their freedom in play is limited (Bundy et al., 2008;Ungar, 2009). Adults usually prevent children from encountering difficulties or opportunities including risk suitable for their development making it difficult for children to recognize risky situations and develop coping skills (Little, 2006). ...
... Birçok araştırmacıya göre, günümüzde çocuklara sunulan açık alan deneyimlerinin sınırlandırılmasının nedeni, yetişkinlerin çocuklara karşı hissettikleri sorumluluk duygusu ve çocukların güvenliği ile ilgili hissettikleri kaygı ile açıklanmıştır (Valentine ve McKendrck, 1997;Weir, Etelson ve Brand, 2006;Wyver vd., 2010). Bu duruma bağlı olarak, araştırmacılar çocukların aşırı korumacı yetişkin tutumlarıyla yetiştirilmeye başladıklarını (Ungar, 2009) ve özgürlüklerinin kısıtlandığı durumlara mahkûm edildiklerini belirtmişlerdir (Bundy vd., 2008). Bazı araştırma sonuçları (örn: Christensen ve Mikkelsen, 2008;Green ve Hart, 1998) çocukların risk içeren aktivitelerde, riskli durumla mücadele edebildikleri bulgusunu ortaya koysa da, bu durum yetişkinlerin çocuklarına karşı aşırı koruyucu tutumlarını değiştirmemiştir. ...
... Birçok araştırmada (Little, 2010b, Little vd., 2012Sandseter vd., 2019) özellikle Norveç'te ebeveynlerin çocuklarını riskli oyunlar oynamaları konusunda cesaretlendirdikleri ve riskli oyunlara karşı yetişkin toleransının yüksek olduğu bulgusu ortaya koyulmuştur. Araştırma bulguları arasındaki bu farklılığın nedeni, araştırmacılar tarafından toplumsal risk algısının ve risk farkındalığının kültürün etkisi ile şekillendiği ile (Greenfield, 2004;Ungar, 2009;Yılmaz, 2017;2020) açıklanmıştır. Buna bağlı olarak, ebeveyn tutumlarının farklı kültürlerde değişiklik göstermesinin, risk olgusuna karşı toplumsal bir algının oluşmasında etkili olduğu söylenebilir. ...
... Some parents apply such high levels of protection (i.e., overprotection), that it no longer fits with the developmental needs of the child (Bernstein & Triger 2010). Overprotection is theorized to have lasting harmful effects throughout a child's life, as it may insufficiently prepare adolescents for adulthood through an undermined development of autonomy and feelings of competence (Ungar, 2009). Currently, there is limited research available on the long-term effects of overprotection on adolescent well-being (De Roo et al., 2022). ...
... This possible explanation is in line with a previous study showing that individual increases or decreases in internalizing problems depended on whether age-specific manifestations of internalizing problems were taken into account, specifically by discarding somatic problems (Petersen et al., 2018). Theoretically, as overprotection may interfere with adolescents' development of autonomy, parents' efforts to protect a child from adversity, may in fact insufficiently prepare their children for adulthood (Ungar, 2009). Hence, based on theory it was expected that overprotection not only had a short-term impact (e.g., resistance of children), but its effects might last for years. ...
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Although parental overprotection is theorized to have lasting negative effects throughout a child’s life, there is limited empirical evidence available on its long-term significance on adolescent well-being. This preregistered, three-wave longitudinal study investigated the association of maternal and paternal perceived overprotection in early adolescence with the development of (mal)adaptive psychological, academic, and social functioning throughout adolescence. Data (N = 2229; 50.7% girls) from the longitudinal TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS) in the Netherlands were used (Mage T1 = 11.11, T2 = 13.57, T3 = 16.28). At T1, adolescents reported on their mothers’ and fathers’ overprotection. From T1 to T3 adolescents and teachers reported about internalizing problems, academic achievement, prosocial, and antisocial behavior. The results showed concurrent associations between higher levels of perceived overprotection and higher levels of internalizing problems, antisocial behaviors, and (after controlling for parental warmth and rejection) lower levels of academic achievement. Perceived overprotection was positively associated with decreased internalizing problems over time. This longitudinal association disappeared after controlling for baseline levels of internalizing problems, suggesting that this result was less robust than expected. Mothers and fathers did not differ in their associations between perceived overprotection and (mal)adaptive functioning. The findings showed that perceived overprotection is mainly concurrently associated with (mal)adaptive adolescent functioning. Future research recommendations are discussed in terms of stability and bidirectional relations.
... In other words, parental involvement via direction and affection should coincide with actual environmental dangers (Thomasgard and Metz, 1993;Wolf et al., 2009;Locke et al., 2012). When parental involvement exceeds the environmental risks and/or individual vulnerabilities of the child (e.g., physical or cognitive disability), over-parenting (OP) takes place (Ungar, 2009). ...
... First, OP incorporates high levels of parental intrusion, removal of obstacles and encouragement of age-inappropriate dependence on parents . Second, as Ungar (2009) describes, OP consists of excessive parental concern coupled with reduced flexibility at levels inconsistent with the safety of the environment or maturity of the child. Third, conceptualizations of OP tend to include high demand for child success (Locke et al., 2012), which can include instructions for the child on how to think, feel (Cooper-Vince et al., 2014) and act, with monitoring occurring both inside and outside the home (Morrongiello, 2005). ...
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This study explores the relationship between parental over involvement and the career development of emerging adults. Specifically, it investigates how emerging adults’ career meta competencies of vocational identity formation and career adaptability relate to perceived helicopter parenting. Participants included 491 emerging adults studying in a Canadian University (74.1% female, average age = 20.4 years old). We begin by reviewing the commonalities between helicopter parenting and other parenting constructs and styles. Next, using structural equation modeling, we explore the relationships between perceived helicopter parenting and the components of vocational identity (exploration: in depth exploration, in breadth; commitment: career commitment, identification with commitment; and reconsideration: career self doubt, career flexibility) and career adaptability, as well as the relationships between identity components and career adaptability. Third, we explore the association between perceived helicopter parenting and identity status progress (i.e., achievement, foreclosure, moratorium, undifferentiated, and searching moratorium). Results indicate that individuals reporting higher levels of perceived helicopter parenting experience significantly lower levels of career adaptability and in-depth exploration. Furthermore, these individuals report higher levels of career self doubt and are more likely to be in the vocational identity status of searching moratorium. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.
... While some did indicate that there were also safety concerns that may continue to inhibit promotion of AT, for others it seems that there is potential for a shift to other alternative health promoting behaviours. Encouragement of AT behaviours relates to health promotion as well as autonomy support, which is a key factor in transition to emerging adulthood (Baumrind, 2005;Ungar, 2009). Parents may be encouraged to begin with support for AT to and from school, proximate leisure activities, and-or together with peers, while still monitoring or limiting completely independent travel in the evenings or to distant locations. ...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose Active travel (AT) incorporates physical activity into daily living, critical for healthy adolescent development. We explore adolescent and parent attitudes and behaviours related to motivations for adolescent AT and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods We conducted semi-structured Zoom interviews with 25 adolescent-parent dyads in communities across Israel during early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thematic content analysis was used to develop categories and themes. Results We identified key themes related to adolescent AT: Fostering independence enables adolescent AT; Pampering and safety concerns inhibit adolescent AT; Family and community norms influence adolescent travel modes; Personal enjoyment and positive attitudes facilitate AT; Peers and social networks promote adolescent AT and PA; Built environment and transport options influence AT choices. Interestingly, adolescents indicate AT is an opportunity for peer-to-peer communication without screen distraction, yet they use social media to promote AT and PA. Conclusions The findings point to the influence of positive parent perceptions, active and supportive family and community norms on adolescent AT. Peer norms and social networks as well as features of the built environment also have the potential to influence AT. The COVID-19 pandemic encouraged use of AT and provided a setting for positive AT experiences.
... Although attitudes to play and safety vary across countries, cultural patterns have emerged in developed nations, including a protective parenting mindset, and bureaucratic and risk averse public health and safety policies and legislation [28,29]. Researchers contend these forces are evident in the declining opportunities children have for play outdoors [30,31] and increasing monitoring and surveillance children experience [9]. ...
Article
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Background Understanding determinants of children’s outdoor play is important for improving low physical activity levels, and schools are a key setting for both. Safety concerns shape children’s opportunity to play actively outdoors, therefore, this qualitative evidence synthesis aimed to i) examine adult (e.g., parent, teacher, yard supervisor, principal) perspectives on safety and risk in children’s active play during recess in elementary and/or middle schools, and ii) identify how safety and risk influence playground supervision and decision making in this setting. Methods Six electronic databases were systematically searched in March 2021, with an updated search in June 2022. Records were screened against eligibility criteria using Covidence software, and data extraction and synthesis were performed using predesigned coding forms in Microsoft Excel and NVivo. Framework synthesis methodology was employed, guided by a conceptual framework structured on the socio-ecological model (SEM) and affordance theory. Results From 10,370 records, 25 studies were included that represented 608 adults across 89 schools from nine countries. The synthesis identified 10 constraining and four affording factors that influenced whether school staff were risk-averse or risk tolerant during recess, and, in turn, the degree to which children’s play was managed. Constraining factors stemmed from fears for children’s physical safety, and fear of blame and liability in the event of playground injury, which shaped parent, school staff and institutional responses to risk. Interrelated factors across SEM levels combined to drive risk-averse decision making and constraining supervision. Emerging evidence suggests children’s active play in schools can be promoted by fostering a risk tolerant and play friendly culture in schools through play facilitation training (e.g., risk-reframing, conflict resolution) and engaging stakeholders in the development of school policies and rules that balance benefits of play against potential risks. Conclusions Findings show several socio-cultural factors limited the ability of school staff to genuinely promote active play. Future work should seek to foster risk tolerance in schools, challenge the cultural norms that shape parent attitudes and institutional responses to risk in children’s play, and explore novel methods for overcoming policy barriers and fear of liability in schools. Trial registration PROSPERO registration: CRD42021238719.
... Therefore, finding differences in this strategy in the subscale of overprotectiveness is highly important. Ungar (2009) states that overprotective parents deprive children of certain experiences by performing some of the child's responsibilities and duties to prevent them from failures and frustrations, making children less capable of taking risks and responsibilities than their peers. Overprotectiveness is the rejection of the child's autonomy by psychological pressure, and this negative attitude adversely affects the child's cognitive and psychological Development (Holmbeck et al. 2002). ...
Article
Museums are important locations providing cognitive resources to children in various subjects. Literature suggests that parent–child interaction in the museum differs across cultures. Two of the main reasons for this are the overall attitude towards the child and the autonomy provided. The data reveals that the most decisive factor was parents’ attitudes towards the autonomy of the child. Research primarily focuses on the structure of parent–child interaction in Turkey in the context of museums, and how often scaffolding strategies are used by parents. It also examines how using these strategies differ in terms of parental attitudes toward children and their caretakers as well as their own individual children. The person selecting the object to talk about (mother-father–child) during the interaction process was accepted as an indicator of autonomy support, and how the scaffolding strategies differed correspondingly was investigated. Parents mostly used strategies of mobilization/maintenance and detailed explanation.
... As past research indicates, adolescents with overprotective parents are more likely to experience feelings of failure and inadequacy because their parents' overprotection signals distrust in the adolescents' problem-solving abilities (e.g., Van Petegem et al., 2020). Additionally, children of overprotective parents may have fewer opportunities to practice their coping skills and, as such, may experience more helpfulness when confronted with stressful events (Ungar, 2009), with this helplessness further indicating frustration of the need for competence. Moreover, parental overprotection may hamper the need for relatedness because adolescents may feel that their parents' approval depends on the degree to which adolescents stay loyal to their parents (Van Petegem et al., 2020). ...
Article
Scholars typically consider parental overprotection to be a maladaptive type of parenting with negative repercussions for adolescents' psychosocial adjustment, with frustration of adolescents' psychological needs serving as an underlying mechanism behind these effects. However, little is known about how adolescents cope with overprotective parenting and how adolescents' coping can alter associations between perceived overprotective parenting and adolescents' maladjustment. In the present study, we examined the moderating role of four coping strategies (i.e. compulsive compliance, oppositional defiance, negotiation and accommodation) using a moderated mediation model based on cross-sectional data of 382 Belgian adolescents (Mage = 17.1 years, 44.5% male). Overall, the results showed that adolescents' coping with overprotective parenting alter to some extent the strength of associations between overprotective parenting and developmental problems. Compulsive compliance in particular appears to be a maladaptive strategy in the context of overprotective parenting. Overall, the results underscore adolescents' active role in overprotective parenting.
... What is more, overprotective parents hinder children's development of autonomy and independence and interfere with children's acquisition of skills and confidence by limiting exposure to developmentally appropriate experiences (Schiffrin et al., 2014). In short, children with overprotective parents are likely at greater risk for maladjustment and possibly ill-prepared for the transition to adulthood (Ungar, 2009). ...
Article
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Aspects of parenting including overprotection explain individual differences in child adjustment. This review and meta‐analysis summarizes studies on parental overprotection and internalizing and externalizing problems. To ensure that findings could be compared as systematically as possible, the focus was on studies that used the overprotection scale of the Egna Minnen Beträffande Uppfostran (“Memories of my Parents’ Upbringing”) (EMBU) questionnaire, a popular instrument to measure parental overprotection. In total, we extracted 176 effects from 29 studies. A modified version of the Newcastle‐Ottawa Scale was used to perform quality assessments for the included studies. Parental overprotection was associated positively with offspring internalizing and externalizing problems, with overall estimates ranging from r = .14 to .18. Moderator analyses suggested that effects of maternal were larger than effects of paternal overprotection. Other factors that moderated the strength of the association between overprotection and maladjustment included whether outcomes were self‐reported or parent‐reported, the design was cross‐sectional or longitudinal, and publication year. Cultural context, age at exposure, and child sex did not explain differences between effect sizes. Most findings were based on cross‐sectional studies and therefore do not constitute proof of causal relations. Many studies were of less‐than‐satisfactory quality regarding representativeness of the sample, descriptions of the data collection, and statistical analyses. There is a clear need for well‐powered longitudinal studies to strengthen inferences about associations between parental overprotection and internalizing and externalizing problems.
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Objective—This report presents national estimates of sexual activity and contraceptive use among males and females aged 15-19 in the United States in 2011-2015, based on data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). For selected indicators, data are also presented from the 1988, 1995, 2002, and 2006-2010 NSFGs, and from the 1988 and 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males, which was conducted by the Urban Institute. Methods—NSFG data were collected through in-person interviews with nationally representative samples of men and women aged 15-44 in the household population of the United States. NSFG 2011-2015 interviews were conducted between September 2011 and September 2015 with 20,621 men and women, including 4,134 teenagers (2,047 females and 2,087 males). The response rate was 72.5% for male teenagers and 73.0% for female teenagers. Results—In 2011-2015, 42.4% of never-married female teenagers (4.0 million) and 44.2% of never-married male teenagers (4.4 million) had had sexual intercourse at least once by the time of the interview (were sexually experienced). These levels of sexual experience among teenagers are similar to those seen in 2002 and 2006-2010 data. Longer-term trends, from 1988 to 2011-2015, show declines in the percentage of teenagers who were sexually experienced. Female teenagers’ use of a method of contraception at first sex increased from 74.5% in 2002 to 81.0% in 2011-2015. Male teenagers’ use of a condom at first sex increased from 70.9% in 2002 to 79.6% in 2006-2010 and remained stable at 76.8% in 2011-2015. Overall, in 2011-2015, 5.8% of female teenagers had used a long-acting reversible method (intrauterine device or implant). © 2017, National Center for Health Statistics. All rights reserved.
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Our study examined the relationship between parental overprotection and perceived child vulnerability to self-reported depressive symptoms in 8- to 12-year-old children diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. The moderating influence of parenting stress was also examined. Mothers (N = 43) completed measures of parental overprotection, perceived child vulnerability, and parenting stress, and the children completed a measure of child depression. Findings revealed that both child vulnerability and parenting stress were associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms; no relationship was found between overprotection and child depressive symptoms. Regression results further indicated that parenting stress moderated the relationship between perceived child vulnerability and depressive symptomotology. Thus, parenting stress appears to magnify the relationship between perceived child vulnerability and child-reported depressive symptoms. Our findings lend additional empirical support for the transactional relationship between discrete parenting variables and child distress. These results also support the view that overprotection and child vulnerability are distinct but overlapping constructs. Interventions that target specific parenting approaches and general parenting stress may be effective in ameliorating child distress.
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