Overparenting takes many forms, but is most often practiced with the best intentions. Parents who engage in over-parenting of emerging adult children and adolescents might immerse themselves in their children’s academic and extracurricular pursuits. They may be the type of parents who help their children fill out job applications and even engage in salary negotiations. Although parents often do these things in an effort to help their children, some believe that overparenting can actually have negative repercussions.
In an effort to examine how overparenting affects young adult children and what causes overparenting behavior, Chris Segrin of the Department of Communication at the University of Arizona recently led a study assessing the emotional states of 653 parent-child pairs. The parents were evaluated for levels of anxiety and regret to determine if these emotions increased overparenting behavior. The children were evaluated for levels of anxiety and stress and also reported what coping styles they used.
Segrin found that anxious parents were more likely to be overly involved in the parenting of adult children. Even though there was no direct link between a parent’s own regret about accomplishments or prior parenting abilities, the anxiety that the regret caused led to more overparenting. The children of overly involved parents reported high levels of stress and anxiety as a result. Additionally, these children were more likely to engage in negative coping strategies and to distance themselves from their parents when compared to children of less-involved parents.
Segrin said, “The results of this study showed that there is a significant association between parents’ anxiety and over-parenting.” Parents who worry about their children’s financial, emotional, or academic well-being, and especially those who have regrets about their own similar conditions may inadvertently transfer that anxiety to their children by way of overparenting.
Segrin believes that even though emotional support provided by overly involved parents may benefit these children, the negative outcomes of stress, distancing, internalizing, and ineffective coping mechanisms far outweigh any benefits. He hopes that future work will explore this effect and focus on identifying those parents at risk of engaging in overparenting behavior so that their own insecurities can be addressed rather than transferred to their children.
Segrin, Chris, et al. (2013). Parent and child traits associated with overparenting. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 32.6 (2013): 569-95. ProQuest. Web.
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