Overprotective parents who believe that they are doing everything they can to secure their children’s futures may be doing more harm than good.
Researchers have found however that it merely makes children miserable and unable to grow up.
Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah found that sons and daughters of of these so-called “helicopter parents” (i.e. always hovering) had lower self-worth than average and were more likely to indulge in risky behaviour such as binge drinking.
These effects were worsened if parents show a lack of warmth.
Children suffered a clear negative effect when parents were too involved in their lives, e.g. making decisions on their behalf and intervening in any conflicts rather than letting the children work it out for themselves. This parental control was actually blocking the children’s development.
The researchers published their research in the journal Emerging Adulthood and said “From our past work, we thought there might be something positive about helicopter parenting, but were just not finding it“.
The researchers aren’t suggesting that parents remove themselves completely from their children’s lives because they still need parental support. However there is a balance to be struck.
I have come across several examples of what I call “over-parenting” where parents are involved in supporting their children into adult life when in some cases they don’t need to.
Two studies that followed thousands of British children through into adulthood have found that breast-fed children are 1.25 times more likely to move up socially and less likely to move down.
Breastfed children also had higher levels of cognitive development and lower levels of stress.
The studies followed children born in 1958 and 1970 until they reached 33/34 years of age.
Their social class was based on their fathers’ occupations and whether or not they were breastfed was recorded. The results were the same in both studies even though breastfeeding had declined from 68% in the 1958 group to 36% in the 1975 group..
The report was written by academics at University College London and the University of Essex. Despite the findings the experts still don’t know exactly why breastfeeding has these benefits, particularly in the short-term for babies’ health.
Dr Mary Iacovou, one of the researchers, said; “There’s lots of evidence that breastfeeding is good for babies in lots of ways. What we don’t quite know is why. Is it the long-chain fatty acids in the milk? (which could be added to formula milk). Is it enhanced skin-to-skin contact? (bottle-fed babies could be given more skin contact”.
See also: Breast best for boys