(Not so) Breaking News: Helicopter Parenting a Bad Idea

Image from http://www.examiner.com/article/how-to-benefit-from-your-helicopter-parents

Image from http://www.examiner.com/article/how-to-benefit-from-your-helicopter-parents

In the course of my day job, I sometimes have occasion to meet the parents of students I teach. 9 times out of 10 this is an utter delight. I’m not biased or anything but my students are generally pretty awesome. So it stands to reason that their parents too are awesome.

But there’s that 1 in 10 times when I just want to tell a parent that they’re doing it wrong. You see, when a young adult (not a child, an 18 year old young ADULT) goes off to college, it can be rough for the parent who has been involved in every waking and non-waking moment of Little Johnnie or Little Jane’s life. But now I’ve found empirical evidence to show that helicopter parenting is NOT the way to go!

Just the Facts

We childfree have known this thing about helicopter parenting for quite some time but I’ve found the source we can now cite to back up our anecdotes! A 2011 study by Terri LeMoyne and Tom Buchanan in the journal Sociological Spectrum confirms that “helicopter parenting is negatively related to psychological well-being and positively related to prescription medication use for anxiety/depression and the recreational consumption of pain pills.”

From the Mouth of Babes

LeMoyne and Buchanan learned of the ill effects of helicopter parenting by asking 317 college students to assess the extent which they agreed or disagreed with 10 statements on a “helicopter parenting scale.” Statements included things like, “Growing up, I sometimes felt like I was my parents’ project” and “My parents have always been very involved in my activities.”

They also asked the students questions about their well-being and prescription and other drug use. Results, as noted above, show that the kids of helicopter parents don’t fare particularly well.

None of this means that parents should stop caring for their kids. And LeMoyne and Buchanan themselves note that they “are not advocating that nurturing academic achievement should be abandoned.” Instead, finding healthy ways to help students excel while nurturing their transition to adulthood is the key.



  1. Childfree - How helicopter parents muscle in on kids' job searches - from CBS News - May 1, 2014

    […] shows this kind of helicopter parenting is actually bad for kids. As I describe in a previous post, research by sociologists LeMoyne and Buchanan found that the college-aged children of helicopter […]

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