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Academic adviser blames helicopter parents for students' mental health issues
Helicopter parenting continues to have the effect many studies have already found: severe anxiety and even depression among children when they are thrown into the adult world in college. - photo by Mandy Morgan
An academic adviser is the latest to blame helicopter parenting for severe anxiety and even depression among college students thrown into the adult world.

"Academically overbearing parents are doing great harm," Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote in her book,"How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success," as shared on Slate.

As dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising for several years, Lythcott-Haims met and worked with many students, including those who were considered to be top students, but with micromanaging parents who helped them make every single decision in life. She found that many of these students were "resigned to the fact that these outwardly successful situations were their miserable lives," she wrote.

Haim's book coincides with past research showing helicopter parenting can have ill effects on children's mental health. A 2013 study showed college students with helicopter parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction in life than other students. It was found that this was due to violation of the students' "basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence," according to the study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.

Helicopter parenting is defined as "including such over-involved habits such as solving children's problems and making important decisions for them," reported Time, on one study exploring whether warmth and support can balance out the intensity of this kind of parenting.

The study out of Brigham Young University found that, although warmth (measured in terms of time parents would talk or spend quality time with children) did reduce the negative effects of helicopter parenting, it did not balance them or eliminate them entirely.

It also was found that a lack of warmth could actually magnify negative effects, "amplifying low self-esteem and high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking," Time wrote.

The effects of stepping in and doing the things a child should be doing for themselves are simply negative, said study author Larry Nelson.

"When parents have tended to do the stuff of life for kids the waking up, the transporting, the reminding about deadlines and obligations, the bill-paying, the question-asking, the decision-making, the responsibility-taking, the talking to strangers and the confronting of authorities, kids may be in for quite a shock when parents turn them loose in the world of college or work," Lythcott-Haims said.

"They will experience setbacks, which will feel to them like failure. Lurking beneath the problem of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student's inability to differentiate the self from the parent."

However, helicopter parenting is not the only parenting style that may be causing anxiety and depression among children, nor do the effects only manifest as late as college.

Recent research focused specifically on the authoritarian parenting style of some Latinos has found that "such parenting defined as strict, controlling and not responsive to a child's feelings can lead to internalizing behaviors including depression and anxiety in young Mexican American and Dominican American children ages 4 to 6," NBC News reported.

The study found that nearly 50 percent of the children were at risk for anxiety and 10 percent were at risk for depression, with the rates persisting over time, NBC News wrote. It found that the Latino children were at five times more risk than non-Latino peers for anxiety and depression, something lead researcher Esther Calzada sees as a call to action.

"I think part of the reason it's so important to understand more about Latinos is because our kids aren't doing so well in terms of succeeding in school and developing strong socio-emotional skills, and if we can leverage positive parenting to help kids to do better in school and to avoid these outcomes of anxiety and depression, then that's critically important," said Calzada, who is Latina.

Respect is a core value for many Latinos and can do much to teach children the importance of obedience and respect for authority, and the researchers do not want to imply there is something wrong with Latino culture, Calzada said.
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