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Helicopter Parenting and Drinking Outcomes Among College Students: The Moderating Role of Family Income

Abstract

Helicopter parenting, a form of overcontrol defined by intense levels of monitoring and supervision, has been linked to an increase in risky behaviors in emerging adults. However, the context may modify how helicopter parenting operates on adjustment in this population. The current study sought to better understand the contextualizing role of family income on the relations between helicopter parenting and drinking behaviors during college. Undergraduates (N = 171; 49% female; M age = 18.82; 68% White; M family income = $60,001–$75,000) completed measures of helicopter parenting, income, and multiple indices of alcohol consumption and problematic drinking. To accommodate the zero-inflated data for the outcome variable, two-part regression modeling was used to examine whether the interaction among (maternal or paternal) helicopter parenting and income was significant. Although the interaction was not significant for the binary models, the interaction generally predicted the magnitude of drinking. For low-income college students, increased helicopter parenting from mothers and fathers deterred most drinking behaviors. For high-income college students, increased maternal and paternal helicopter parenting was associated with a greater degree of average number of drinks consumed per day and drinking to intoxication. Overall, the results suggest that considering the economic conditions of families is important when examining the influence of parenting behaviors on young adult drinking patterns. While helicopter parenting might not be adaptive for high-income families, this form of parenting might serve a different function in low-income families by reducing risky behaviors of undergraduates.

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The authors declare no funding was received for this research.

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MM conceived of the study. AD wrote the introduction and discussion sections of the paper. MM made additional contributions to the introduction and discussion sections, wrote the method section, and conducted the statistical analyses. AD edited the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Meredith McGinley.

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The current study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at North Central College.

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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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McGinley, M., Davis, A.N. Helicopter Parenting and Drinking Outcomes Among College Students: The Moderating Role of Family Income. J Adult Dev 28, 221–236 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-020-09366-w

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Keywords

  • Helicopter parenting
  • Income
  • Problem drinking
  • Alcohol consumption