How the Rich Get Riskier: Parenting and Higher-SES Emerging Adults' Risk Behaviors

  • Katelyn F. RommEmail author
  • Carolyn McNamara Barry
  • Lauren M. Alvis


Many parents continue to parent their emerging-adult children, but what becomes developmentally appropriate for such children differs from that of earlier ages. In addition, culture and context shape parenting and in turn child outcomes. Among an adolescent sample, higher-SES youth engage in higher levels of risk behaviors to manage the pressures they face from trying to live up to their parents’ high expectations for achievement compared to low- and middle-SES youth. Researchers have not yet examined the role of SES on emerging adults’ likelihood of engaging in risk behaviors in response to controlling parenting. Therefore, the current study explored the role of SES on the associations among emerging adults’ perceptions of their parents’ parenting behaviors (i.e., behavioral control, psychological control, and helicopter parenting) and change in their own risk behaviors. Undergraduate students (N = 551; Mage = 19.87, SD = 2.00; 60.6% women; 61% European American; 28.6% higher-SES) from four universities throughout the U.S. completed both waves of the study. Participants completed scales on each of their parents’ behavioral control, psychological control, and helicopter parenting, as well as a self-report measure of their own engagement in risk behaviors. Results indicated that maternal and paternal psychological control were associated positively with change in risk behaviors. Additionally, maternal and paternal behavioral control were associated with greater change in risk behaviors for higher-SES, but not lower-SES emerging adults. The findings provide new insights into the role of SES on the differential influence of parental behavioral control, psychological control, and helicopter parenting on change in emerging adults’ risk behaviors.


Parental control SES Emerging adults Risk behaviors 


Author Contributions

CMB and KR conceived of the study. KR wrote the introduction, methods, and discussion sections of the paper. CMB made substantial intellectual and conceptual contributions to the design of the project, collaborated with the writing of the paper, and edited the final manuscript. LA conducted statistical analyses and wrote the results section of the paper.


This research was supported via funding through the Family Studies Center at Brigham Young University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The current study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Brigham Young University, University of California—Davis, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, and Loyola University Maryland.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All participating youth gave informed consent prior to their participation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katelyn F. Romm
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carolyn McNamara Barry
    • 2
  • Lauren M. Alvis
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Loyola University MarylandBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.West Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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