Helicopter Parents and Landing Pad Kids: Intense Parental Support of Grown Children
“Helicopter parents” — so called because they’re seen as overprotective or excessively interested in their children — have been both praised and criticized: They can improve students’ academic performance, but also dominate their children’s college and workplace interactions.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, “Helicopter Parents and Landing Pad Kids: Intense Parental Support of Grown Children,” assesses the impact of intensive parental support — including listening, advice, practical and financial support and socializing. The researchers, from Purdue, Penn State, Michigan, UT-Austin and the University of Pennsylvania, interviewed 399 parents and nearly 600 of their children ages 18 to 33.
The study concludes that:
- Nearly 30% of parents reported providing intense support for at least one of their grown children; 21% of children reported receiving this type of support.
- Intense parental support is provided more by mothers (26.8%) than fathers (15.0%). Mothers and daughters were more likely to participate in this dynamic than other parent-child combinations.
- “Parents who had two or more children … typically offered intense support to only one child.” Adult children living with their parents were more likely to receive and benefit from intense parental support, particularly those still in school without children of their own. “Parental support may be most beneficial in helping grown children transition into adulthood.”
- While 16.6% of grown children reported they received “more or a little more support than they would like,” these children also reported having better-defined goals and higher life satisfaction than their less intensely-parented peers, regardless of whether parental contact occurred on a daily or weekly basis.
- The well-being of helicopter parents, in contrast, appears not to be linked to their parenting style. Parents who perceived that their children required more support reported lower life satisfaction. “Parents also fare worse when they believe their grown children are doing poorly.”
The authors conclude that “norms for intergenerational ties have deteriorated over the past decades, leaving parents and children adrift in expectations regarding their relationships.”
A related 2011 study from UCLA provides perspective on how generational changes in personal time allocation and management are affecting family dynamics and changing in particular the work-life balance of American women.
Tags: youth, parenting, women and work
Read the issue-related New York Times blog post titled "When Parents Hover and Kids Don't Grow Up."
- What key insights from the journal article should reporters be aware of as they cover these issues?
Read the full study titled "Helicopter Parents and Landing Pad Kids: Intense Parental Support of Grown Children.”
- What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
- What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?