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Study: Hovering parents spoil their children

Ryan+Revock++%2F++Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A+%0AChris+Segrin%2C+the+department+head+of+the+UA+Department+of+Communication%2C+speaks+on+overparenting.
Ryan Revock
Ryan Revock / Arizona Daily Wildcat Chris Segrin, the department head of the UA Department of Communication, speaks on overparenting.

Parents who hover may just be doing it out of concern, but they’re creating a sense of entitlement in their children, according to a UA professor and his research partner.

UA Communications Department Head Chris Segrin and UA alumna Michelle Givertz, assistant professor for communication studies at California State University, conduct studies on overparenting. Three studies have shown that overparenting results in children who act narcissistic and entitled, while a fourth, ongoing study is researching types of “helicopter parents” who try to exercise too much control over their children’s lives.

The study will be submitted for publication at the end of the summer, Segrin said. The study aims to identify the different subtypes of parents and what their motivations and goals are.

Overparenting refers to parents who apply developmentally inappropriate parenting tactics to their young adult children, where they offer more guidance and direction than is needed, Segrin explained.

The idea for studying overparenting came from his and Givertz’s own experiences with hyper-involved parents. After comparing stories three years ago, Givertz and Segrin became interested in the effects of overparenting on children.

“As a department head receiving phone calls from parents, I was seeing this happen,” Segrin said. “It was an interesting situation and I couldn’t resist.”

Givertz agreed and said she met students who weren’t well-prepared and were asking, “How do I study for this exam?” or saying “I’m not sure how to write this paper.”

“I found I was dealing with a lot of students that weren’t very well-prepared,” Givertz said. “On the other hand, they simultaneously expressed a high sense of self-entitlement. They felt they were entitled to high grades, but it was pretty clear they didn’t know how to achieve those goals on their own.”

After asking students to take an online survey, Givertz and Segrin then asked the student subjects for their parents’ information and sent an online survey for the parents to fill out.

What Givertz and Segrin found was that overparenting was negatively associated with a lot of things that are necessary for children’s welfare and positively associated with maladaptive traits, making it hard for children subjected to overparenting to adjust to new situations.

“Some suggest that some of that worry comes from the parent’s own regrets of what they did not achieve in life,” Segrin said. “I react to that by trying to really completely run your life and make sure you realize what are very often my dreams, not yours.”

Givertz and Segrin also found that overparenting stems from parental anxiety and said that parents need to relax.

“Most parents enact it with good intentions — they want their children to be successful and not have trouble in life,” Segrin said. “That sets the kids up for trouble later in life, because people don’t like kids who are narcissistic.”

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