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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
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
Key words: Helicopter parenting, parenting attitudes, anxiety, social connectedness.
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,
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
This paper was presented at the International Academic Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities, Prague, 2014.
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?
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)
Their parents
Maternal age
18-24 ages
36-40 ages
41-45 ages
46-50 ages
51-55 ages
56 and older ages
Maternal education
Primary school
Middle school
High school
Number of siblings
Paternal education
Primary school
Middle school
Four and more
High school
Birth order
First child
Paternal age
Second/Midle child
41-45 ages
Last child
46-50 ages
51-55 ages
56 and older ages
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.
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.
Table 2 Demographic differences among the helicopter parenting, social connectedness,
anxiety and parental acceptance and control.
Sibling number
Birth order
Maternal education
Maternal age
Paternal education
Paternal age
Family structure
*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 Helicopter
3.State Anxiety
5.Maternal control
7.Paternal control
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.
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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Full-text available
The present study examined the interplay between the perceived parenting styles of the university students and attachment styles, basic self-dimensions, behavior patterns in close relationships, and relationship satisfaction. The findings indicated that parenting styles (authoritarian, authoritative, permissive/indulgent, and permissive/neglecting), which were constructed by crossing perceived parental acceptance/involment and strict control dimensions of parenting were consistently related with the major outcome variables. Authoritarian and permissive/indulgent parenting styles were found to be the most com,non child rearing practices among Turkish parents. As compared to those from authoritarian and negletful families, participants from authoritative and indulgent families were more likely to have secure attachment (and less likely to have insecure attachment), high levels of self-esteem and self-concept clarity, and low, levels of trait anxiety. Parenting dimensions perceived from mothers were primarily related with attachment variables and those dimensions perceived from fathers were primarily related with the self variables. The results were discussed regarding the varying parental roles of mothers and fathers in the Turkish culture and the systematic influence of parenting styles on the outcome variables.
Full-text available
Popular media describe adverse effects of helicopter parents who provide intense support to grown children, but few studies have examined implications of such intense support. Grown children (N = 592, M age = 23.82 years, 53% female, 35% members of racial/ethnic minority groups) and their parents (N = 399, M age = 50.67 years, 52% female; 34% members of racial/ethnic minority groups) reported on the support they exchanged with one another. Intense support involved parents' providing several types of support (e.g., financial, advice, emotional) many times a week. Parents and grown children who engaged in such frequent support viewed it as nonnormative (i.e., too much support), but grown children who received intense support reported better psychological adjustment and life satisfaction than grown children who did not receive intense support. Parents who perceived their grown children as needing too much support reported poorer life satisfaction. The discussion focuses on generational differences in the implications of intense parental involvement during young adulthood.
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In recent years there has been an increasing interest in overprotective parenting and the potential role it plays in child development. While some have argued that a trend towards increased parental fear and reduced opportunity for independent mobility may be linked to increasing rates of child overweight and obesity, there is limited empirical information available to support this claim. Using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, this study aimed to examine the longitudinal relationships between maternal protectiveness and child overweight and obesity. A cohort of 4-5 year old children was followed up at 6-7, 8-9 and 10-11 years of age (n = 2596). Measures included a protective parenting scale administered when children were 6-7 and 8-9 years of age, child body mass index (BMI), family characteristics including household income, neighbourhood disadvantage, child's position amongst siblings, and maternal BMI, education, employment, mental health and age at first birth. International Obesity Taskforce age- and sex-specific BMI cut points were used to determine if children were in the normal, overweight or obese BMI range. There was no association between maternal protectiveness and the odds of children being overweight or obese at age 4-5, 6-7 or 8-9 years. However at age 10-11 years, a 1 standard deviation increase in maternal protectiveness was associated with a 13% increase in the odds of children being overweight or obese. The results provide evidence of a relationship between maternal protectiveness and child overweight and obesity, however further research is required to understand the mechanism(s) that links the two concepts.
Full-text available
Overparenting involves the application of developmentally inappropriate levels of parental directiveness, tangible assistance, problem-solving, monitoring, and involvement into the lives of children. Based on theories of family enmeshment, effective parenting, and personality development, this parenting behavior was hypothesized to be associated with negative traits in parents (i.e., anxiety and regret) as well as in young adult children (i.e., narcissism, poor coping styles, anxiety, and stress). Participants were 653 parent-adult child dyads from 32 of the 50 United States who completed measures of overparenting and maladaptive traits. A latent variables analysis showed that parental anxiety was positively associated with overparenting, and that parental regret had an indirect effect on overparenting through greater anxiety. In adult children, overparenting was associated with higher levels of narcissism and more ineffective coping skills (e.g., internalizing, distancing). These ineffective coping skills were associated with greater anxiety and stress in young adult children.
Full-text available
Is there a point where parental effort can be too much? While the link between parenting effort and the wellbeing of children has been firmly established, contemporary discussion has proposed that extreme levels of parental protection of and responsiveness to children could be counterproductive. Research has not yet addressed this phenomenon to ascertain if overparenting is a genuinely different type of parenting approach. The purpose of the present study was to gain insight into the parenting actions considered by parenting professionals (psychologists and school guidance counsellors) to be overparenting. One hundred and twenty-eight professionals responded to an online survey about their observations of overparenting, with eighty-six respondents providing lists of the types of actions they believed were behavioural examples of the term. The survey data revealed that certain types of actions were considered to be indicative of overparenting, and that particular beliefs and outcomes may be involved in this parenting approach. Implications for parenting advice and education programs, and further research are discussed.
Full-text available
Overparenting involves the application of developmentally inappropriate parenting tactics that far exceed the actual needs of adolescents and emerging adults. Past research as well as elements of self-determination theory suggest that this type of parenting should be associated with greater child problems in relation to other people and a more critical family environment. These hypotheses were tested on 477 emerging adult child-parent dyads from 30 of the 50 United States who both completed self-report measures of overparenting and elements of a critical family environment. In addition, emerging adults completed self-reports of problems, primarily in relation to other people, and how they cope with them. Results of a structural equation model indicated that the child, but not parent, overparenting latent variable was strongly associated with reports of more child problems. Both the emerging adult child and parent overparenting latent variables were positively and significantly associated with the critical family environment latent variable. These results can be usefully explained by several postulates of self-determination theory and add to a growing literature pointing to the ill effects of overparenting when applied to emerging adults.
The present study used a sample of 779 unmarried emerging adult college students to test the hypothesis that higher levels of helicopter parenting would be related to less positive marital attitudes. Helicopter parenting entails intense and intrusive involvement by parents under the guise of caring and protection. Using hierarchical multiple regression models, results suggested that helicopter parenting was not associated with the general importance placed on marriage but did influence emerging adults’ beliefs about the advantages of being single versus being married and their expected age of marriage. Higher reported helicopter parenting among emerging adults was associated with stronger beliefs that being single held more advantages than being married and an expected delay of eventual marriage. Other results suggested that parental warmth with mothers and fathers was also an important correlate of emerging adults’ marital attitudes.
What is colloquially referred to as "helicopter parenting" is a form of overparenting in which parents apply overly involved and developmentally inappropriate tactics to their children who are otherwise able to assume adult responsibilities and autonomy. Overparenting is hypothesized to be associated with dysfunctional family processes and negative child outcomes. Predictions were tested on 538 parent-young adult child dyads from locations throughout most of the United States. Parents completed a newly developed measure of overparenting as well as family enmenshment, parenting styles, and parent-child communication scales. Young adult children completed measures of parent-child communication, family satisfaction, entitlement, and several adaptive traits. Results showed that overparenting is associated with lower quality parent-child communication and has an indirect effect on lower family satisfaction. Overparenting was also a significant predictor of young adult child entitlement, although it was not related to any of the adaptive traits measured in young adult children.