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Relationship of helicopter parenting on autonomy development in first-year college students

Elizabeth A Moriarty, Johnson & Wales University


Anecdotally, college administrators report that parents are increasingly more involved in every aspect of their students' college experience. Several factors are believed to contribute to this perceived increase in parental involvement. Advances in technology make it easier for parents and students to stay in contact (Henning, 2007). The traditional-aged cohort of students, known as the Millennial generation, values their parents' opinions and describe themselves as being close to their parents (Howe & Strauss, 2000, 2003). Parents are encouraged throughout their child's K-12 years to be involved; in fact, the pervasive message is that student success is linked to extensive parent involvement. In addition, the escalating cost of higher education has contributed to the increase in parental involvement (Forbes, 2001). Popular media suggests that the parents of today's college students are overly involved in their students' lives. This cohort of parents has been dubbed “helicopter parents” because of their tendency to “hover” over every aspect of their childrens' lives (Carney-Hall, 2008). Going away to college is a major developmental milestone. For most college students, this is the first time that they are living separate from their parents and consequently it is the first time that they are making independent decisions. Chickering (1969) viewed the college years as a time in which students gain autonomy. Chickering and Reisser (1993) described the vector “moving through autonomy toward interdependence” as a time in which students disengage with their parents and they infer that in order to move through the vector, students must rely more on their peers and on non-parental adults. What is the impact of parental involvement on the development of autonomy? Through survey research, this correlational quantitative study examined the relationship between parental attachment, parental contact, and parental influence on the development of autonomy in first-year college students. Despite the current media attention on the negative effects of the so-called “helicopter parents”, little empirical research exists that would support this claim. The studies on the impact of parent involvement on student development that do exist reveal mixed results (Kenny, 1987a; Kenny & Donaldson, 1991; Sorokou & Weissbrod, 2005).

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Educational psychology|Individual & family studies|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Moriarty, Elizabeth A, "Relationship of helicopter parenting on autonomy development in first-year college students" (2011). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3450941.