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The impact of helicopter parenting on the social connectedness and anxiety level of university students

Abstract and Figures

Parental protection is improve children self-confidence if it is not more than they need. It is supposed that children cannot achieve independence when helicopter parents try to solve their problems during task-oriented challenges. Because children not allowed engaging in age-appropriate tasks, primarily as it applies to their education and preparation for the job market. For this reason, this study focus on the impact of helicopter parenting on the social connectedness and anxiety level of undergraduate university students. Helicopter Parenting Measure (LeMoyne ve Buchanan, 2011), The Parenting Styles Scale (Sumer & Gungor, 1999) the Social Connectedness scale (Lee & Robbins, 1995) and Trait Anxiety scale (Spielberger, 1989) used to collect the data. University students participated this study as a voluntary basis and completed scales in their classroom. Data were analyzed according to age, gender, grade etc. The results were discussed in relation to helicopter parenting and social attachment and anxiety.
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The impact of helicopter parenting on the social connectedness and anxiety level of
university students
1
Ilkay ULUTAS & Ayse Belgin AKSOY
Gazi University, Ankara, TURKEY
Parental protection is improve children self-confidence if it is not more than they need. It is supposed that children
cannot achieve independence when helicopter parents try to solve their problems during task-oriented challenges.
Because children not allowed engaging in age-appropriate tasks, primarily as it applies to their education and
preparation for the job market. For this reason, this study focus on the impact of helicopter parenting on the social
connectedness and anxiety level of undergraduate university students. Helicopter Parenting Measure (LeMoyne
ve Buchanan, 2011), The Parenting Styles Scale (Sumer & Gungor, 1999) the Social Connectedness scale (Lee
& Robbins, 1995) and Trait Anxiety scale (Spielberger, 1989) used to collect the data. University students
participated this study as a voluntary basis and completed scales in their classroom. Data were analyzed according
to age, gender, grade etc. The results were discussed in relation to helicopter parenting and social attachment and
anxiety.
Key words: Helicopter parenting, parenting attitudes, anxiety, social connectedness.
INTRODUCTION
In recent years, the term overparenting, as the opposite of child neglect and abuse, has received
more attention. Overparenting is also named helicopter parenting or protective parenting
(Locke, Campbell& Kavanagh 2012; Segrin & Givertz, 2013; Triger, 2012). Helicopter
parenting is the exaggeration of over-controlling, overparenting, over-protective and over-
perfectionist styles and parenting responsibility. These parents highly monitor their children,
are involved with their lives, and generally intend well. They want their children to be secure,
happy, satisfied and well-educated. Furthermore, they take too much responsibility especially
in their children’s experiences of success and failure. These parents make significant emotional
and financial investments in their children (Trigger, 2012; Lemoyne & Buchanan, 2012; Hunt,
2008).
Helicopter parenting is particularly observed in the parents of students just starting their
university education. Parents willingly and tirelessly organize many areas of the child’s life.
Most helicopter parents call or text their children three-four times a day, read and proof their
child’s papers, make to do lists for them, visit their home very often to clean and cook for them.
The children provide their parents with their university passwords so that their parents can
supervise their academic schedules and grades. Moreover they may call the professors when
their young adults unsuccessful in the course (Segrin, Woszidlo, Givertz & Montgomery, 2013;
Locke, Campbell& Kavanagh 2012).
Helicopter parents are also directly involved in their child’s relationship with the opposite sex
and may think their child is not equipped properly to make the decision for marriage. Such
behavior could be detrimental in emerging adults. A restrained parental attitude that provides
1
This paper was presented at the International Academic Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities, Prague, 2014.
https://books.google.com.tr/books?id=JN9FBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA199&dq=The+Impact+of+Helicopter+Parenting+on+the+Social+Connecte
dness+and+Anxiety+Level+of+University+Students&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiDs-
273NXMAhXFVxoKHepXAcIQ6AEIGzAA#v=onepage&q=The%20Impact%20of%20Helicopter%20Parenting%20on%20the%20Social%
20Connectedness%20and%20Anxiety%20Level%20of%20University%20Students&f=false
support when the individual requires is more appropriate (Willoughby, Hersh, Padilla-Walker,
& Nelson, 2013).
Children raised by over-involved or helicopter parents fail to develop important competencies
such as time management, and coping skills. These children show less creativity, spontaneity,
enjoyment and initiative in their spare time; are less attentive to the emotions of others; have
less self-confidence, self-respect, life fulfillment and self-acceptance; are more prone to
anxiety, depression and stress; and cannot apply life skills on their own (Trigger, 2012; Segrin
& Givertz, 2013). Parents who choose to be over-involved have various reasons. Mainly, they
are the belief in the necessity of supervision and guidance due to the children being helpless
creatures, and the intense involvement in their children’s lives to help them be successful in the
competitive world.
Hughes stated that helicopter parenting emerged with economic insecurity (Hunt, 2008).
Parents went through significant social changes in the turbulent 1960s. In addition, they
experienced changes in their life styles. The children raised in the new life style had the best
parenting styles (emphasis on education, independence) whereas there was a transition in
parenting from authoritativeness to cooperative parenting. Furthermore, technological
developments (mobile phones, internet, GPS access), as well as, lack of economic and
environmental safety has increased the parents’ drive to protect and monitor their children
(Hunt, 2008).
While parents’ support of their children is received positively, recently the impact of parents
with high degree of involvement in their children’s lives has been discussed (Shoup, Gonyea,
& Kuh 2009; Colavecchio-Van Sickler, 2006; Lipka, 2005; Taylor, 2006; Fingerman et al.,
2012). Although the over-involvement of parents in their children’s lives appears to be
supportive, it can also result in physiological (Hancock, Lawrence & Zubrick, 2014) and
psychological (Segrin, Woszidlo, Givertz, Bauer, Murphy; 2012) problems. Over parenting
could damage parentchild relationships, thus compromising the child’s relatedness (Segrin &
Givertz, 2013). In young adults, parental control is associated with emotional regulation and
management, depression and disappointment (Fischer, Fortun, Pidcock, & Dowd, 2007). As
Lemoyne and Buchanan (2011) stated children of perceived helicopter parents are also more
apt to be medicated for anxiety and depression.
The ages between 18 and 25 is a period of preparation for adulthood in education, love and
work and development as an individual in the society (Willoughby, 2013). Social connectedness
and general anxiety level might be impacted as a result of the individuals’ decreased self-control
with the over-involvement of the parents during this process. The purpose of the study is to
investigate the impact of helicopter parenting on the social connectedness and anxiety level of
undergraduate university students. We try to provide answers to the following questions:
Can demographic variables predict helicopter parenting?
Is helicopter parenting related to social connectedness and anxiety?
METHOD
Sample
For the current study, data were created from 422 university students who were older than 18
age and attended in Early Childhood Education classes in Gazi University. Table 1 provides
detailed demographic information on the sample. The study sample included mostly girls
(%91.7) ranging from 18 to 24 years of age with a mean age of 20.79 years (SD = 1.70).
Table 1 Basic demographics of students and their parents (N=422)
Students
Their parents
Age
M
SD
Maternal age
Frequency
Percent
18-24 ages
20,79
1,70
36-40 ages
77
18,2
Sex
Frequency
Percent
41-45 ages
161
38,2
Girl
387
91,7
46-50 ages
114
27,0
Boy
35
8,3
51-55 ages
54
12,8
Grade
56 and older ages
16
3,8
First
73
17,3
Maternal education
Second
100
23,7
Primary school
234
55,5
Third
162
38,4
Middle school
58
13,7
Fourth
87
20,6
High school
88
20,9
Number of siblings
College/University
42
10,0
One
106
25,1
Paternal education
Two
127
30,1
Primary school
118
28,0
Three
101
23,9
Middle school
67
15,9
Four and more
88
20,9
High school
111
26,3
Birth order
College/University
126
29,9
First child
179
42,4
Paternal age
Second/Midle child
114
27,0
41-45 ages
100
23,7
Last child
129
30,6
46-50 ages
157
37,2
51-55 ages
116
27,5
56 and older ages
49
11,6
Measures
Student and their Parent characteristics
Students provided some demographics such as age, grade, gender, maternal age and education,
paternal age and education.
Helicopter parenting
Helicopter parenting was assessed using a seven-item scale developed by Lemoyne and
Buchanan (2012). The response set for the helicopter parenting items is as follows: 1=strongly
disagree, 2=disagree, 3=undecided, 4=agree, 5=strongly agree. For the computation of the scale
score, each respondent’s item scores are summed and divided by the number of items
constituting the scale. Higher scores represent higher levels of helicopter parenting perceived
by respondents. The Cronbach’s reliability alpha for the helicopter parenting scale (HPS) in this
sample was .71 (Lemoyne & Buchanan, 2011).
The Parenting Styles
The Parenting Styles Scale (PSS) was developed by Sumer & Gungor (1999) to investigate
perceived parental control and warmth. The scale consists of 22 items, half measuring perceived
parental control (e.g. “My mother/father does not forgive me easily if I do not obey her/his
rules”) and the other half measuring parental warmth (e.g. “My mother/father talks to me
regularly in a comforting way”). The PSS measures maternal and paternal styles from the
adolescent’s point of view and duplicates each item for mothers and fathers. Participants
responded to the items on a 4- point scale ranging from 1 (not true at all) to 4 (completely true).
The common factor solution explained 39, 45, and 44 percent of variance for maternal
parenting, and 38, 44, and 42 percent for paternal parenting in the Turkish- Belgian groups. The
alpha coefficients for the two subscales were satisfactory, ranging from .72 for paternal control
in the migrant sample to .92 for maternal warmth in the Turkish sample.
Social connectedness
Social connectedness scale is a eight-item self-report scale, Items are designed to assess an
individual’s subjective sense of connectedness or disconnectedness from the social world (Lee
& Robbins, 1995). It was adapted to Turkish by Duru (2007) and reliability found as α=.90,
repeated test was .90.
State anxiety
The State anxiety scale STAIT (Spielberger, 1983) is a 20item questionnaire that assesses
individual differences in anxiety as a personality trait. Each of the items is rated from ‘not at
all’ (coded as 1) to ‘very much so’ (coded as 4). Oner & LeCompte (1985) completed the
adaptation of the questionnaire and reported cronbach alpha coefficient as 0.92 for Trait
Anxiety Scale and the inventory was accepted as reliable.
Procedure
In the assessment phase, students completed self-report questionnaires in the classroom as
voluntary bases. They also were assured that their identity would remain anonymous and that
their participation would not affect their status during the education process
Data analysis
Several methods were utilized to analyze the data of the current study. First, Kruskal Wallis H
Test was also used to examine differences in the demographic variables. Second, Spearmen
correlation test were used to investigate correlations among helicopter parenting, social
connectedness, anxiety and parenting styles.
RESULTS
Table 2 Demographic differences among the helicopter parenting, social connectedness,
anxiety and parental acceptance and control.
Helicopter
parenting
Social
connectedness
State
anxiety
Maternal
acceptance/
warmth
Maternal
control
Paternal
acceptance/
warmth
Paternal
control
Age
4,64
11,60*
8,19*
6,88
3,46
4,74
2,09
Grade
9,50*
18,87**
9,63*
8,55*
13,13**
5,94
6,66
Sibling number
,43
2,64
10,32*
8,32*
3,88
2,53
7,85*
Birth order
,39
4,80
,01
,25
5,33
,28
1,80
Maternal education
3,02
3,11
4,97
10,33*
3,59
3,11
3,25
Maternal age
3,63
1,32
3,02
3,36
9,65*
2,15
2,93
Paternal education
1,36
3,69
11,47*
1,85
3,50
1,03
1,61
Paternal age
6,12
1,26
2,47
3,33
10,25*
3,04
2,67
Family structure
1,79
,01
6,15*
,18
1,73
1,49
,61
*p<.05 ** p<.01
Helicopter parenting were significantly different regarding to grade. First three years means
were found higher than fourth year. Social connectedness, state anxiety, parental acceptance
and control also decreased by the years. Students who had university and post graduated mother
had higher maternal acceptance, who had university and post graduated fathers had low state
anxiety. Fathers younger than 55 years old reported having lower control by the students.
Table 3 Correlations among helicopter parenting, social connectedness, state anxiety, parental
acceptance and control
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1 Helicopter
Parenting
-
2.Social
connectedness
,029
.
3.State Anxiety
,155**
-,312**
.
4.Maternal
acceptance/warmth
,093
,366**
-,196**
5.Maternal control
,223**
-,157**
,292**
-,304**
.
6.Paternal
acceptance/warmth
,114*
,186**
-,107*
,368**
-,053
.
7.Paternal control
,222**
-,111*
,248**
-,216**
,696**
-,053
-
-
The relationship between helicopter parenting and state anxiety found consistent with research
hypothesis that more helicopter parenting would increase anxiety level of children (r=155,
p<.01). On the other hand the research hypotheses related with the social connectedness was
not supported by the result. There is no correlation between social connectedness and helicopter
parenting (r=.029, p>.05). Maternal control (r=.223, p<.01), paternal acceptance (r=114, p<.05)
and paternal control (r=222, p<.01) was positively related with helicopter parenting.
DISCUSSION
The current study results stated that helicopter parenting and anxiety were correlated positively
and that children’s anxiety also increased with an increase in helicopter parenting attitudes. The
controlling and accepting attitudes of parents were related with helicopter parenting.
Recent popular media interest, however, has focused on intensive parenting effort, predicting
that it could impact negatively on children’s wellbeing (Locke, Campbell& Kavanagh 2012).
Today, parents have fewer children than their own parents, which means sparing more time and
financial resources for each child. The new generation is being raised in a systematic and
protective manner. Parents think they have responsibility to help their children make the best
choices involving issues such as university education, work and place to live. Therefore, they
are over-involved in and over-protective of their children’s lives, regulating every aspect of the
children’s live tirelessly and willingly. They perform their duties even with their children
attending university (Hunt, 2008). In their study investigating the characteristics of adult
children with over-parenting, Segrin, Woszidlo, Givertz & Montgomery (2013) identified high
levels of arrogance and ineffective coping skills in adult children who described their parents
as over-involved. Ineffective coping skills in adult children were significantly correlated with
anxiety and stress. Moreover, parental anxiety and overparenting was found to be positively
correlated. The study results mainly stated that there was a positive correlation between
helicopter parenting and anxiety. Parents are basic model for observational learning. Based on
observations of their parents’ behaviors or styles, children learn information about the
environment as being a safe or threatening place. (Egliston & Rapee, 2007). In contrast, parents
who display obsessive, over protective or fearful reactions to children may unintentionally teach
their young children to be obsessive or anxious (Murray et al., 2008).
The decrease in helicopter parenting scores in senior students shows that parents decrease over-
protecting their children and being over-involved in their lives. Helicopter parenting has both
acceptance/warmth and control. Therefore, there is a difference is parental attitudes and
helicopter parenting .The involvement of the family in the child’s life is associated to many
positive results. However, this manner of involvement is correlated to high levels of anxiety
and depression when it does not comply with the child’s level of development. In a study
carried out with the participation of university students, high levels of depression and low levels
of life satisfaction were observed in students with over-controlling parents (Schiffrin, Liss,
Miles-McLean, Geary, Erchull& Tashner, 2014). Furthermore, another study conducted on the
parent-young adult pair showed that overparenting was associated with lower parent-child
communication and family satisfaction (Segrin, Woszidlo, Givertz, Bauner, Murphy& 2012).
Although over controlling parenting appears to be positive, over protective or over involved
attitudes of parents determine their children’s psychological wellbeing. Over-involved
mothering is portrayed as perfect mothering in mass media. Moreover, there is an increasing
focus on parents as risk factors in children’s lives (Romagnoli & Wall, 2012). The emphasis on
perfect and supportive parenting in the media increases protective and over-involved parenting.
Increased emphasis on parental role and supportive attitudes can result in the parents’ attitudes
to become exaggerated.
The completion of young adults’ educations, their leaving home, finding a job and getting
married has been delayed in Turkey as in the rest of the world due to the increased demand for
university education. As a result, young adults have become emotionally and financially
dependent on their families for an extended period of time. On the other hand, the number of
children in the family and environmental threats has increased parents’ monitoring and
protective behavior. However, exaggerated attitudes prevent especially young adults to improve
their skills. Parents should be informed on child raising and its impact on the child from early
periods. Moreover, universities should carry out studies with a view to the reality that helicopter
parenting could limit the students’ developmental competencies.
There are several limitations of our study that must be taken into account when both interpreting
our findings and considering future research on this topic. First, because a convenience sample
of undergraduate students was used rather than a random probability sample, generalizing from
these results should be done with caution. Second, the sample comes from universities in
Turkey, so these findings may not generalize to other regions of the country. Furthermore,
planning and interpreting the study with a view to the Turkish culture and parenting attitudes,
and with wider, as well as, a greater number of sampling groups would be more explanatory.
Additional studies that provide a more comprehensive understanding of these mechanisms and
the relevance of specific parent factors, as well as cultural and social factors, are still needed to
answer the many questions regarding the role that parenting plays in childhood anxiety.
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