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Too Much Parental Involvement Can Be Harmful To College Students



By Chris Hassan
Posted November 13, 2013 10:00 AM

Too Much Parental Involvement Can Be Harmful To College Students
Too Much Parental Involvement Can Be Harmful To College Students

For many people, going to college provides their first real taste of independence. Whether students move into a dormitory or off-campus housing, their decision to pursue a bachelor's degree often means living away from home and taking control of their lives.

However, some parents have trouble letting go. These adults, or helicopter parents as they are sometimes called, are overly involved in their children's lives, which can often be problematic.

A Change in Behavior

The Boston Globe reports that mothers and fathers who start out as helicopter parents evolve into snowplow parents as they grow older. Snowplow parents are adults interested in smoothing a path for their college-age children. While these parents may feel like they are doing good, their kids and college officials may not view it the same way.

For example, the father of a Boston University student was upset about the A- his daughter received, so he complained to her professor, as well as the department chair and academic dean, according to the Globe. Meanwhile, officials at Simmons College have had to field concerns from parents regarding everything from noise on campus to a lack of variety at the school's salad bar.

"This is not how all parents of college students behave," Sarah Neill, dean of students at Simmons," told the Globe. "But there has been a real shift in the extent to which parents are involved and invested in the lives of their students."

Harmful Effects

Recently, Chris Segrin, a behavioral scientist who conducted a study on helicopter parents, spoke to NBC News about one incident involving a University of Arizona student and his father. The student received a B, but his father thought he deserved something better and placed a call to dispute the grade.

While the father believed he was doing good, his son ended up feeling insecure, incapable and anything but empowered due to his father's meddling. These negative feelings are not uncommon among the children of helicopter parents.

A study by Holly Schiffrin, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, found that college students who had over-controlling parents also reported higher levels of depression, along with lower levels of life satisfaction.

"To find parents so closely involved with their college lives, contacting their tutors and running their schedules, is something new and on the increase," Schiffrin told Reuters. "It does not allow independence and the chance to learn from mistakes."

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