A long-term study shows that intrusive or helicopter parenting may be doing more harm than good for kids, reports the Tech Times.
According to the book entitled Intrusive Parenting: How Psychological Control Affects Children and Adolescents, helicopter parenting is characterized by so-called manipulative parental behaviors, including psychological control.
Previous studies on this kind of parenting have focused on college students and teenagers, but this new research hones in on the link between helicopter parenting and its results on self-criticalness among children in primary school age. The study’s outcome presented traumatic mental and psychological effects caused by intrusive parenting.
The scientists, from the National University of Singapore, found that children with parents who are perfectionists and overly critical may be more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. They may also grow up to become increasingly self-critical over the years.
Assistant professor Ryan Hong, lead author on the study, says that when parents hover too much over their kids’ lives, they might be giving off signals that what the kids do is “never good enough.” As a result, children tend to fear making even the slightest mistakes, blaming themselves for not being “perfect.”
Over time, this notion may become detrimental to a young child’s well-being, as it increases the risk for developing anxiety disorders, which may lead to depression and even suicide in extreme cases, the authors state.
Hong and his team studied two areas of perfectionism in kids: self-criticalness perfectionism, wherein a person is overly concerned about his or her perceived imperfections and mistakes, and socially prescribed perfectionism, in which a person firmly believes that other people expect him or her to be perfect. The primary goal of the researchers focused on two factors including “socially prescribed perfectionism” and “self-criticalness perfectionism”.
Socially prescribed perfectionism is when someone believes that another person expects only perfection; self-criticalness perfectionism is when the individual is concerned about their mistakes and imperfections.
The five-year study involved children aged 7 years old from 10 primary schools in Singapore, lasting from 2010 to 2014. For each family that participated, the parent that was more familiar to the child was in on the study.
To assess the scope of intrusive parenting in each family, the parents and kids were asked to play a game. The children were asked to solve a puzzle within a time limit, and parents were told they could only help when they felt it was really necessary. The purpose of the game was to observe if parents interfered with their kids’ attempts at solving the problem, regardless of whether or not it was actually needed.
The researchers said that a highly intrusive parent tended to take over the game to redo a move their child had made.
Within the length of the study, Hong and colleagues observed both the children’s and their parents’ behaviors. They identified the intrusive behavior shown by the parents and assessed the children when they turned 8, 9 and 11.
In the end, a review of the 263 children in the study revealed that 60% of them scored high on self-criticalness, while 78% had high socially prescribed perfectionism. Both of these maladaptive behaviors exhibited at around the same time among 59% of the child participants.
Hong says that the findings suggest that in a society where academic excellence is given so much focus, such as in Singapore, parents may place unrealistically high expectations on their children. Because of this, the kids are not only fearful of making mistakes, but may reject admitting their failures and seeking help, which in turn exacerbates their emotional problems.
Hong recommends that parents be more careful not to put too much pressure on young kids, and that they must have a conducive environment to learn. He adds that committing mistakes and learning is a part of becoming a well-rounded person.
He says one small practical thing is to change how parents talk to their children. For example, instead of asking, “Did you get a perfect score on your test?” parents can rephrase it to “How did you do on your test?”
When children don’t do well in exams, parents should refrain from heaping blame on them. The method of finding an achievement to praise before addressing the mistakes has been proven to work well, Hong says.
Previous studies have shown that supportive parenting has more positive effects on kids. Those who had received positive attention from parents are often shown to have higher grades, higher incomes, increased happiness and stronger sense of morality upon growing up, according to experts.
The new study was published in the Journal of Personality.