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Helicopter parenting and perceived overcontrol by emerging adults: A family-level profile analysis

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Wendy Rote

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Helicopter parenting (HP) is associated with poorer adjustment and worse relationships with parents among emerging adults, but these associations may depend on interpretations of HP and the family context in which it occurs. This study examined within-family patterns of mothers’ and fathers’ HP behavior and youth felt overcontrol, and their associated adjustment, relational, and demographic correlates. Participants were 282 U.S. college undergraduates (Mage = 19.87 years, SD = 1.27, 71% female, 52% White, 25% Asian). Using surveys from a single time-point, students reported on HP and felt overcontrol by mothers and fathers and their own adjustment and relationship quality with each parent. Latent profile analysis revealed four profiles: Autonomous (low HP, low felt overcontrol—71%), Mother Overcontrol (high mother HP and felt overcontrol—11%), Father Overcontrol (high father HP and felt overcontrol—6%), and HP Acceptors (high HP, low felt overcontrol—12%). Internalizing problems and relationships with parents were worst among students in the overcontrolled profiles. HP Acceptors were highest in parental warmth and intimate disclosure with parents but no better than overcontrolled students on internalizing symptoms. Academic performance did not differ among profiles, but academic motivation was highest among the Mother Overcontrol group. Results show that families differ in relative levels of HP among mothers and fathers and that these patterns may impact emerging adults’ interpretations of HP. In turn, emerging adults’ interpretations of HP as overcontrol have important implications for their relationships with parents but less so for psychological adjustment.





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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.