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Helicopter parenting – why hovering over your kids in college can damage their job prospects

New research reveals the consequences of over-parenting on the future employability of students

Boston, MA, 25 July 2014 – Helicopter parents, named for their tendency to hover over their offspring, has been discussed widely  at elementary and high school level, but new research published in a recent issue of Education + Training has revealed that helicopter parenting is increasingly becoming an issue in college.   In one of the first studies to assess the impact of over-parenting young adults on future workplace behaviour, researchers found that over-parenting might be more than a mere nuisance to employers.

In 'Helicopter parents: an examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students', Professors Jill C. Bradley-Geist and Julie B. Olson-Buchanan of California State University Fresno surveyed over 450 undergraduates who were asked to rate their level of  self-efficacy, the frequency  of  parental involvement, how involved parents were in their daily lives, and their response to certain  workplace scenarios.  Professor Bradley-Geist explains:  “This is one of the first studies to empirically examine the antecedents and outcomes associated with over-parenting with young adults who are nearing the completion of their college degree. An important area for this research was identifying the potential work-related behaviour of employees who were raised by helicopter parents.”

The study revealed that the clearest difference between those students with helicopter parents was their lack of belief in their own ability to complete tasks and reach goals, with researchers suggesting this should ring alarm bells for future employers.  It found that students who experienced helicopter parenting through college were more likely to be dependent on others, engage in poor coping strategies and lack the soft-skills, like responsibility and conscientiousness, that employers value. 

Professor Olson-Buchanan adds: “A particularly intriguing finding is that over-parenting relates to maladaptive job search and work behaviours.  This suggests several possible practical implications for higher education professionals, who might consider providing additional opportunities for students to develop greater autonomy, accountability and for dealing with negative feedback”.

The study is published in the latest issue of Education + Training Volume 56 No. 4 2014.  Published by global publisher, Emerald Group Publishing, the journal addresses the increasingly complex relationships between education, training and employment and the impact of these relationships on national and global labour markets. For more information, visit www.emeraldinsight.com/et.htm

Notes to the editor:
The article, “Helicopter parents: an examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students”, is available on request.  To receive a copy, please email scolley@emeraldinsight.com.  The authors are available for comment.

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