When Overparenting is Normal Parenting: Examining Child Disability and Overparenting in Early Adolescence

  • Ryan J. GagnonEmail author
  • Barry A. Garst
  • Chrystyna D. Kouros
  • Holly H. Schiffrin
  • Ming Cui
Original Paper



This study examined associations between child disability and parent-reported overparenting, autonomy granting, and affect management among a purposeful sample of parents whose children attended a camp serving early adolescents with disabilities or a camp serving early adolescents without disabilities.


868 parents completed a post-camp online questionnaire designed to measure overparenting, autonomy granting, and affect management. The measure’s factor structure and model fit were examined through Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and the relations between variables were tested using a Structural Equation Model (SEM).


Parents of children attending the camp serving early adolescents with disabilities reported higher levels of overparenting as compared to parents of early adolescents without a disability. Further, overparenting had a positive effect on affect management, but not on autonomy granting. Finally, disability status did not have a statistically significant negative effect on affect management or autonomy granting.


Overparenting appears at higher rates among parents of early adolescents with disabilities, which may reflect overparenting as normative for parents with children with disabilities. Such overparenting behaviors may support children with disabilities to perform more consistently when compared to their peers.


Early adolescence Disability Helicopter parenting Medical specialty camp Overparenting Out-of-school Time 


Author Contributions

R.J.G.: designed and executed the study, conducted the data analyses, and wrote the paper. B.A.G.: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. C.D.K., H.S., and M.C.: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

This research was supported in part by Texas Lions Camp. The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of Texas Lions Camp. Texas Lions Camp had no involvement in the study design, analysis of data, or the development of this manuscript.

Ethical Approval

This research was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Clemson University where it was conducted, which has Federal-wide Assurance from the Office of Human Research Protection (OHRP). Thus, all procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. No identifying information was obtained during data collection.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  2. 2.Southern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA
  3. 3.University of Mary WashingtonFredericksburgUSA
  4. 4.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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