Independent Project


Ann Lynch


Independent Essay


Dr. Ardito ED 524




The term “helicopter parent” was first used by Foster Cline and Jim Fay in 1990. "Helicopter parent" gained more recognition when American college Administrators began using it in the early 2000’s as the oldest students began reaching college age. But this raises an important question, Can too much helping of our children cause more harm than good in the classroom? As parents we want to do our best to give children every opportunity for them to thrive and succeed and using guidance and modeling for our children has always been an accepted means of nurturing our children but over the past decade the trend of “overparenting” seems to have caused more detriment to our children and has not helped us to raise independent critical thinking young adults. By the time these students are reaching middle school, students may be lacking the necessary skills to become future successful leaders and thinkers. I am looking to find out how overparenting in the home reaches across to the classroom and can affect the students’ emotional and academic state. This would be important for middle school educators to be aware of because of the amount of parent involvement in today’s school but more importantly educators will need to better understand the strategies and skills used to better support the children of this era.






Research Learned


The overall research and findings I have discovered is that although overparenting can potentially lead to students excelling academically the social and emotional repercussions of the child outweigh their schooling accomplishments. The Chicago Tribune said it best, “Teens' cognitive development, perception of the world, and influence from peers is very different than when they were 6, experts say. Brain-wise, their prefrontal cortex — governing impulse control and emotional stability —is not fully developed, and won't be until their early- to mid-20s, explains Richard Horowitz, a parenting coach and author of "Family Centered Parenting" (Morgan James Publishing). That makes them particularly vulnerable because developmentally they can make independent decisions if allowed to, but don't have the fully developed judgment needed to prevent risky decisions, Horowitz says. That means they need parents who can and are willing to guide them when necessary without usurping their freedom. "Not an easy task, and it will lead to parental anxiety," Horowitz says. "It is, however, necessary for (them) to develop into a responsible adult.” Adolescent development is definitely a time of rapid development — physical, cognitive, emotional and social," adds Kirsten Li-Barber, assistant professor of psychology at High Point University in North Carolina. Research of teens with overprotective parents, she adds, has found they are more anxious, less socially skilled, have poorer coping skills and higher rates of depression. In addition, they don't transition to college well. The sad irony, Li-Barber says, is that helicopter parents behave that way out of a strong desire for their children to be successful by shielding them from harm or failure. But that's in direct contrast with the "the developmental necessity of conflict and failure," according to Michael L. Sanseviro, dean of students at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. "Our critical thinking and problem-solving skills grow more from an active and engaged conflict resolution process compared to a passive observer role," Sanseviro adds, noting that colleges are receiving increasing complaints from employers that recent graduates can't think for themselves.” (Asa, 2015) Studies have also shown that being too involved in a child’s life can actually lead to anxiety. A study conducted in 2012 at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia found that children at age 4 who exhibited signs of anxiety had either overly-involved mothers or mothers who were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. By age 9 these children were more likely to have a diagnosis of clinical anxiety. In addition, a study that was published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies in 2013 found that college students who have been “over-parented” from a young age reported decreased satisfaction with life. I found no research to support “overparenting” as a successful parenting style to young adolescents. The negative effects of “overparenting” seem to become clear during young adolescents and manifest more deeply during your adulthood. There was some exception in China. China has what could be generalized as an “overparenting” style. But a study showed that although these parents showed an overbearing attitude and a close involvement with the efforts and academics of their child, it was only because they believed that their child could accomplish anything, even if it meant practicing for hours to accomplish. A study indicated once a task or grade was achieved or an instrument mastered Chinese children felt closer to their parents not alienated. This was because it was the believed that American parents would not push their child and would accept their child’s failure or find ways to “over parent” and help them to achieve the task. Whereas a Chinese parent expected the child to accomplish it on their own thereby giving the child a sense of individual accomplishment. (Stevenson and Lee, 1990)


Ultimately what I have learned is that even with the best intentions to help our children it is more beneficial to allow students to fail and be fearful and afraid to take risks. This will develop them into independent decision makers. Trying to shield a child from disappointment only makes it harder for them as they get older because their young minds have not mastered the strategies to deal with unhappy situations. More research does need to be done on the effects of “overparenting” on younger students and how that plays into a child’s anxiety as they enter middle school. I also believe the term “overparenting” or “helicopter parent” needs to be more clearly defined as the different research articles I have read each use different ways of explaining and defining it.


Next Steps


The nature of my research does deal primarily with the emotional side of the students therefore I would try to start implementing ways to include in the classroom the importance of effort not results. I would use team building strategies to encourage and show the children that sometimes we fail and but it is more important how we deal with that failure and move on. Anxiety and stress management strategies would be key. Also, because this topic deals so intimately with parents, I would also use strategies to work with parents of all different styles and find the best ways to communicate with them about the needs of their child.




The emotional needs of the child are the most important element of young adolescents. It is important that within the classroom one does no lose sight of this as they try to improve the students’ academics. “overparenting” has shown to have such negative effects it is amazing to see parents are, whether involuntary or not, continue to parent in this sort of manner. It is necessary to find strategies that will best serve the students and parents in the classroom.










Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. Dangers of helicopter parenting when your kids are teens. (2010, May 5).




Asa, Richard. (2015, June 15) Chicago tribune. Retrieved from




Cline and Fay. Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. 1990. 23-25. As quoted by Julie Lythcott-Haims in How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. 2015. 4.




Hudson, J. L., & Dodd, H. F. (2012). Informing Early Intervention: Preschool Predictors of Anxiety Disorders in Middle Childhood. PLOS ONE, 7 (8). Retrieved from




Schiffrin, H. H., Liss, M., Miles-Mclean, H., Geary, K. A., Erchull, M. J., & Tashner, T. (2013). Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23 (3). Retrieved from June 23, 2015




Stevenson HW and Lee SY. 1990. Contexts of achievement: a study of American, Chinese, and Japanese children. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 55(1-2):1-123.





















    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito


      You did a very good job with this research project.

      I found your arguments to be well articulated and clearly supported by the research you did. What I found most fascinating is the (perhaps unintentional) flow of anxiety from parent to child. The parents are anxious about their children, which precipitates the helicopter behavior which in turn leads to increased anxiety in the children.

      Very interesting indeed.

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