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Helicopter parent

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A woman has a propellor strapped to her back. From a cell phone, she tells her daughter "Don't forget to study for your psych test." The girl looks over her shoulder, concerned.
Cartoon demonstrating and making jest of the term "helicopter parent"

A helicopter parent (also called a cosseting parent or simply a cosseter) is a term for a parent who is overattentive and overly fearful of a child's experiences and problems, particularly outside the home and at educational institutions.[1] Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they "hover overhead", overseeing every aspect of their child's life.[1][2] A helicopter parent is also known to strictly supervise their children in all aspects of their lives, including in social interactions.[1]


The metaphor appeared as early as 1969 in the bestselling book Between Parent & Teenager by Dr. Haim Ginott, which mentions a teen who complains: "Mother hovers over me like a helicopter..."[3]

The term "helicopter parent" has been in use since the late 1980s.[4] It subsequently gained wide currency when American academic administrators began using it in the early 2000s as the oldest millennials began reaching college age. Their baby-boomer parents earned notoriety for practices such as calling their children each morning to wake them up for class and complaining to their professors about grades the children had received.[5][6] Summer camp officials have also reported similar behavior from these parents.[7]


The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that helicopter parents continued advocating for their adult children at the graduate school level as well, such as advocating for their adult child's admission to law school or business school.[8] As this cohort entered the workforce, Human Resource officials reported helicopter parents showing up in the workplace or phoning managers to advocate on their adult child's behalf or to negotiate salaries for their adult children.[9]

Generational demographer Neil Howe describes helicopter parenting as the parenting style of baby boomer parents of millennial children. Howe describes the helicopter parenting of baby-boomers as a distinct parenting style from Generation X parents. He describes the latter as "stealth-fighter parents" due to a tendency of Gen X parents to let minor issues go while striking without warning and vigorously in the event of serious issues. Howe contrasts this to the sustained participation of Boomer parents of Millennials in the educational setting, describing these parents as "sometimes helpful, sometimes annoying, yet always hovering over their children and making noise". Howe describes baby boomers as incredibly close to their children, saying that in his opinion, this is a good thing.[9][10]

Helicopter parents attempt to "ensure their children are on a path to success by paving it for them". The rise of helicopter parenting coincided with two social shifts. The first was the comparatively booming economy of the 1990s, with low unemployment and higher disposable income. The second was the public perception of increased child endangerment, a perception which free-range parenting advocate Lenore Skenazy described as "rooted in paranoia".[11]

Helicopter parenting is on occasion associated with societal or cultural norms that furnish or standardize themes related to vicariousness.[12]


Tianjin University has been building "love tents" to accommodate parents who have traveled there with their matriculating freshmen, letting them sleep on mats laid out on the gym floor. Commentators on social media have argued that the one-child policy has been an aggravating factor in the rise of helicopter parenting (see little emperor syndrome).[13]

In research[edit]

Helicopter parenting is a colloquial term; research often refers to the concept as overprotective parenting or overparenting.[14] Research in the past referred to overprotective mothering, but overprotective parenting and overparenting are now favoured to include the role of fathers in parenting.[14] Overparenting can be seen as a form of control and refers to any form of inappropriate (excessive or developmentally) involvement in a child's life from the parent.[15][16] In response to its use in everyday terminology, research has recently started also using the term helicopter parenting.[17][18]


Madeline Levine has written on helicopter parenting. Judith Warner recounts Levine's descriptions of parents who are physically "hyper-present" but psychologically absent.[19] Katie Roiphe, commenting on Levine's work in Slate elaborates on myths about helicopter parenting: "[I]t is about too much presence, but it's also about the wrong kind of presence. In fact, it can be reasonably read by children as absence, as not caring about what is really going on with them ... As Levine points out, it is the confusion of overinvolvement with stability." Similarly, she reminds readers that helicopter parenting is not the product of "bad or pathetic people with deranged values ... It is not necessarily a sign of parents who are ridiculous or unhappy or nastily controlling. It can be a product of good intentions gone awry, the play of culture on natural parental fears."[20]

The Chinese parenting style depicted in the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has been compared to western helicopter parenting. Nancy Gibbs writing for Time magazine described them both as "extreme parenting", although she noted key differences between the two. Gibbs describes tiger mothers as focused on success in precision-oriented fields such as music and math, while helicopter parents are "obsessed with failure and preventing it at all costs". Another difference she described was the Tiger Mother's emphasis on hard work with parents adopting an "extreme, rigid and authoritarian approach" toward their children, which she contrasts to western helicopter parents who she says "enshrine their children and crave their friendship".[21]

Former Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims, drawing from her experiences seeing students come in academically prepared but not prepared to fend for themselves, wrote a book called How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success [22] in which she urges parents to avoid "overhelping" their children.[23]


University of Georgia professor Richard Mullendore described the mobile phone as a contributing factor for helicopter parenting.[6][24] Some parents, for their part, point to rising college tuition costs, saying they are just protecting their investment or acting like any other consumer.[25] Inter-generational research published in "The Gerontologist" observed educators and popular media lament helicopter parents who hover over their grown children, but reported "complex economic and social demands make it difficult for the Baby Boomers' children to gain a foothold in adulthood."[26]

Clare Ashton-James, in a cross-national survey of parents, concluded that "helicopter parents" reported higher levels of happiness.[27] Some studies suggest overprotective, overbearing, or over-controlling parents cause long-term mental health problems for their offspring. The description of these mental health problems may be lifelong and its impact is comparable in scale to individuals who have suffered bereavement, according to the University College London. According to the Medical Research Council, "psychological control can limit a child's independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behaviour".[28][29][30]

According to a 2019 national poll[31] on children's health by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan, one-quarter of parents surveyed say they are the main barrier to their teen's independence by not taking the time or effort to give their teen more responsibility.[32] The national survey of nearly 900 parents found most of those with kids between 14 and 18 who conceded to helicoptering said they did it because it was just easier to do things themselves.[33]

Although parents or proponents of helicopter parenting claim that such a restrictive and imposing parenting style may instil discipline, other analysts have claimed that there is evidence that such forms of parenting result in teenage rebellion, and may even extend into a vicenarian rebellion.[34]

A study from Beijing Normal University found that overparenting had a detrimental effect on children's leadership skills. Another study from the University of Florida found that helicopter parenting was associated with more emotional problems, struggles with decision-making and worse academic performance in a group of 500 students.[35]

Statistics showed that when college students remained at home and had fewer siblings, over-parenting was more prevalent. Furthermore, parental participation however not over-parenting was linked to poorer confidence in students and unfavorable reactions to working situations.[36]

Moreover, there are several college-related circumstances for the student that are connected to over-parenting. For instance, over-parenting is linked to more detrimental results, for example poorer self-efficacy, whereas parental participation is linked to more favorable results for students, like as better social self-efficacy and graduate school goals.[37]

Related concepts[edit]

The "snowplow parent" is said to go a step further than the helicopter parent by proactively removing obstacles that their child would otherwise face. The New York Times used the term in its 2019 article on the Varsity Blues scandal.[38] The phrase "lawnmower parent," coined by Karen Fancher of Duquesne University, has the same meaning as "snowplow parent."[39]

In other languages[edit]

In Sweden, parents that would be considered helicopter parents in the English-speaking world are instead referred to as curlingföräldrar ("curling parents").[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Weber, Jill. "Helicopter Parenting". Healthy Living Magazine. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
  2. ^ Morin, Amy (January 29, 2018). "5 Problems Kids With Overprotective Parents Are Likely to Experience in Adulthood, According to Science". Inc.com. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  3. ^ Dr. Haim Ginott (1969), Between Parent and Teenager, p. 18, New York, NY: Scribner. ISBN 0-02-543350-4.
  4. ^ "9 Words for Types of Parenting". www.merriam-webster.com. Merriam Webster. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  5. ^ Henderson, J. Maureen (January 7, 2013). "Why Entitled Millennials And Their Enabling Boomer Parents Just Can't Quit Each Other". Forbes. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Briggs, Sarah; Confessions of a 'Helicopter Parent' (PDF), retrieved May 1, 2006 Archived September 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Kelley, Tina (July 26, 2008). "Dear Parents: Please Relax, It's Just Camp". The New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2008.
  8. ^ "Helicopter Parenting—It's Worse Than You Think". Psychology Today. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Ludden, Jennifer (February 6, 2012). "Helicopter Parents Hover In The Workplace". NPR. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  10. ^ Howe, Neil. "Meet Mr. and Mrs. Gen X: A New Parent Generation". AASA – The School Superintendents Association. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  11. ^ Kendzior, Sarah (November 12, 2014). "Only Baby Boomers Could Afford to Be Helicopter Parents". Yahoo Finance. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  12. ^ Somers, Patricia; Settle, Jim (2010). "The Helicopter Parent". College and University. 86 (1): 18–24, 26–27. OCLC 667785385. ERIC EJ899286.
  13. ^ Wang, Serenitie; Hunt, Katie (September 12, 2016). "Why 'tents of love' are popping up in Chinese colleges". CNN. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Omer, Haim; Satran, Shai; Driter, Oren (2016). "Vigilant care: An integrative reformulation regarding parental monitoring". Psychological Review. 123 (3): 291–304. doi:10.1037/rev0000024. PMID 26845385.
  15. ^ Locke, Judith Y.; Campbell, Marilyn A.; Kavanagh, David (December 2012). "Can a Parent Do Too Much for Their Child? An Examination By Parenting Professionals of the Concept of Overparenting". Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling. 22 (2): 249–265. doi:10.1017/jgc.2012.29. S2CID 145730570.
  16. ^ Ungar, Michael (April 30, 2009). "Overprotective Parenting: Helping Parents Provide Children the Right Amount of Risk and Responsibility". The American Journal of Family Therapy. 37 (3): 258–271. doi:10.1080/01926180802534247. S2CID 145113443.
  17. ^ Moilanen, Kristin L.; Lynn Manuel, Mary (August 2019). "Helicopter Parenting and Adjustment Outcomes in Young Adulthood: A Consideration of the Mediating Roles of Mastery and Self-Regulation". Journal of Child and Family Studies. 28 (8): 2145–2158. doi:10.1007/s10826-019-01433-5. S2CID 254600570.
  18. ^ Leung, Janet T Y; Busiol, Diego (2016). "Adolescents growing up in a 'Greenhouse:' A literature review". International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health. 9 (4): 413–422. ProQuest 1864149721.
  19. ^ Warner, Judith (July 27, 2012). "How to Raise a Child". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  20. ^ Roiphe, Katie (July 31, 2012). "The Seven Myths of Helicopter Parenting". Slate. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
  21. ^ Gibbs, Nancy (January 29, 2011). "Roaring Tigers, Anxious Choppers". Time. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
  22. ^ Lythcott-Haims, Julie (2015). How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-1-62779-177-9.
  23. ^ Brown, Emma (October 16, 2015). "Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  24. ^ "Mullendore: Cell phone is umbilical cord for helicopter parents". The University of Georgia – College of Education. Archived from the original on January 7, 2019. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  25. ^ Alsop, Ron (2008). The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation is Shaking Up The Workplace. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0-470-22954-5.
  26. ^ Fingerman, Karen (April 2012). "The Baby Boomers' Intergenerational Relationships". The Gerontologist. 52 (2): 199–209. doi:10.1093/geront/gnr139. PMC 3304890. PMID 22250130.
  27. ^ "'Helicopter parents' have more meaningful lives, study finds". Telegraph. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  28. ^ "How overly-controlling your kids could give them lifelong psychological damage". Independent.co.uk. September 3, 2015.
  29. ^ Schiffrin, Holly H. (2014). "Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students' Well-Being". Journal of Child and Family Studies. 23 (3): 548–557. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9716-3. S2CID 54218169.
  30. ^ "Helicopter parents: Hovering may have effect as kids transition to adulthood". Science Daily. June 28, 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  31. ^ "Mott Poll Report: Parent efforts insufficient to promote teen independence". July 22, 2019.
  32. ^ "Failure to Launch: Parents are barriers to teen independence". University of Michigan Medicine. July 22, 2019.
  33. ^ Ebony Bowden (July 22, 2019). "A quarter of moms, dads raising teens say they are helicopter parents". NY Post.
  34. ^ Wallace, Michael; Weybright, Elizabeth; Rohner, Bridget; Crawford, Jennifer K. (2015). Over-involved parenting and competition in youth development programs. Washington State University (Report). hdl:2376/5354.
  35. ^ "What leader are you? It depends on your parents". April 5, 2020.
  36. ^ C. Bradley-Geist, Jill; B. Olson-Buchanan, Julie (May 6, 2014). "Helicopter parents: an examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students". Education + Training. 56 (4): 314–328. doi:10.1108/et-10-2012-0096. ISSN 0040-0912.
  37. ^ C. Bradley-Geist, Jill; B. Olson-Buchanan, Julie (May 6, 2014). "Helicopter parents: an examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students". Education + Training. 56 (4): 314–328. doi:10.1108/et-10-2012-0096. ISSN 0040-0912.
  38. ^ Maguire, Cheryl (March 10, 2023). "How the Snowplow Parenting Trend Affects Kids". Parents.com. Retrieved November 5, 2023.
  39. ^ Sonja Haller (September 19, 2018). "Meet the 'lawnmower parent,' the new helicopter parents of 2018". USA Today.; Jennifer Graham (April 5, 2019). "Sherpa, snowplow or drone: What's your parenting style?". Deseret News.
  40. ^ Carling, Maria (October 31, 2011). "A Second Take on Swedish Parents". Psychology Today. Retrieved March 8, 2022.

External links[edit]