Quite Thought Full: Hovering parents hinder students


By Katie Walsh | Opinions Editor

Everyone knew a kid who had parents who loomed over every element of their high school education. The poor kid’s parents volunteered to chaperone every trip and every dance, scheduled parent-teacher conferences weekly, complained to teachers about unsatisfactory grades and probably wrote the perfect application essay to get their baby into the best school. Or maybe just the school closest to home.

But what if the help didn’t stop there?

More and more parents are continuing their “helpful” ways into their child’s college years because of the failing economy that awaits students on the other side. A study published in Springer’s Journal of Child and Family Studies suggests that this type of “helicopter parenting” past high school isn’t just annoying, it can be detrimental to these young adults.

The study, led by Holly Schiffrin, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, found that parents hovering over every aspect of their child’s life well into college can lead to depression and a lack of competence.

The study asked 297 U.S. undergraduate students to complete an online survey where they were asked to describe their mother’s parenting behavior alongside their own autonomy and happiness. In an interview with Reuters, Schiffrin said that the study came as the result of an increase in parents being more involved in their college-aged children’s lives, as noticed by students and university administration alike.

“To find parents so closely involved with their college lives, contacting their tutors and running their schedules, is something new and on the increase. It does not allow independence and the chance to learn from mistakes,” Schiffrin said in her interview with Retuers.

It’s important to note that when thinking of parents who control their college student’s lives too much to the point of limiting their chances to make mistakes, we’re not talking about the dad who calls every now and then to see how the job, internship or graduate school search is going and to make sure it is, in fact, going. Nor are we describing the mom who sends a care package of goodies during midterms so you have something to snack on while studying at the library. This is the type of parenting that allows enough room for independence and growth to occur while still providing truly helpful guidance and parental wisdom.

Rather, helicopter parenting in college involves hindrances like a parent emailing or calling your professor for you and even going so far as determining which classes you should take. Schiffrin also said that with the increase in technology, helicopter parents don’t wait for the weekly or daily phone call home. They text, email and Facebook their children to keep them on their toes.

This constant attention to a student from parents may undermine his or her autonomy and lead to a lack of competence, independence and even depression. The apron strings have to be cut at some point, even in this gloomy and increasingly unemployed world.

University campuses are starting to address the issue of parents who cannot seem to let go by offering parent orientations alongside the typical freshman orientations at the beginning of a student’s college career. By ensuring parents that students will be well taken care of for the next three or four years and offering parents advice and a window into college life beforehand, universities are offering comfort and helping relieve a bit of the pain of giving up control.

While controlling parents could be an issue, this study should not diminish the value of parental guidance. Whether we like or not, a parent’s loving advice will always do wonders throughout our time in college. Allow your parents to encourage you throughout your college career, but don’t let them infringe upon your possible independence.


Katie Walsh is senior English and philosophy major and can be reached at walshk2@duq.edu.