Helicopter Parenting and Emerging Adult Self-Efficacy: Implications for Mental and Physical Health

Abstract

Helicopter parenting has become an increasing concern among practitioners, college administrators, and professors. Further, some research has indicated that this form of parenting may have a deleterious effect on emerging adult college students’ mental health. This study examines the factor structure of the Helicopter Parenting Behaviors measure, a recent scale developed to examine intrusive and supportive parenting behaviors, by using confirmatory factor analysis. We utilized a self-determination theoretical framework to replicate and expand current research regarding the impact of helicopter parenting and autonomy supportive parenting on emerging adult mental and physical well-being. Further, we examined self-efficacy as a mechanism for helicopter parenting and autonomy supportive parenting to impact well-being, using structural equation modeling with a sample of 461 emerging adult college students from a large southeastern, United States university. The two-factor structure of the Helicopter Parenting Behaviors measure was confirmed, indicating helicopter parenting and autonomy supportive parenting are two unique, but related, constructs. Both autonomy supportive parenting and helicopter parenting were found to have indirect effects on anxiety, depression, life satisfaction, and physical health through self-efficacy. Results also indicated autonomy supportive parenting was directly related to life satisfaction and physical health when accounting for self-efficacy, whereas helicopter parenting was not directly related to well-being. This study adds to the extant literature by its’ application of a family-level lens to the self-determination theory, its’ advancement of parenting behaviors measurement, and its’ exploration of the continued influence of parenting during emerging adulthood.

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Reed, K., Duncan, J.M., Lucier-Greer, M. et al. Helicopter Parenting and Emerging Adult Self-Efficacy: Implications for Mental and Physical Health. J Child Fam Stud 25, 3136–3149 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0466-x

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Keywords

  • Helicopter parenting
  • Autonomy support
  • Emerging adult
  • Self-determination
  • Self-efficacy