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Education: When does the helicopter run out of gas?
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A new study says "helicopter parents", i.e. those who "hover" over their kids in college, are a "good thing":
Despite the negative reputation of "helicopter parents," those moms and dads who hover over children in college and swoop into their academic affairs appear to be doing plenty of good.

That's the conclusion of one of the nation's most respected college surveys in a report, to be released today, that experts call the first to examine the effects of helicopter parenting.

Data from 24 colleges and universities gathered for the National Survey of Student Engagement show that students whose parents were very often in contact with them and frequently intervened on their behalf "reported higher levels of engagement and more frequent use of deep learning activities," such as after-class discussions with professors, intensive writing exercises and independent research, than students with less-involved parents.

"Compared with their counterparts, children of helicopter parents were more satisfied with every aspect of their college experience, gained more in such areas as writing and critical thinking, and were more likely to talk with faculty and peers about substantive topics," said survey director George D. Kuh, an Indiana University professor.

The study found no evidence that helicopter parenting produces better grades. In fact, students with very-involved parents had lower grades than those whose parents were not so involved, but the authors suggest that "perhaps the reason some parents intervened was to support a student who was having academic difficulties."

Several college officials said the lower grades of children of very-involved parents suggested that the parents were accustomed to helping them get through school. They added that the study showed such intervention could be healthy. Barbara W. Williams, dean for special student services at Howard University, said she found that parents of students with disabilities were more apt to get involved in their college lives.

Parents, college officials and college-family relationship experts agree that the study is a blow to the widely accepted notion that little good can come from meddling in college children's lives.
The question is, when does this stop? Perhaps I'm missing something here, but I've always been of the opinion that it was a parent's job to prepare their child to take on the responsibilities of being adult at the appropriate time so that they could function as such when mom and dad are no longer around.

Now I understand the point that is being claimed - some kids just need more help than others. But I wonder if that's a function of too much help prior to college and a bit of co-dependency afterward?

Is there any wonder why more and more 30 somethings still live in mom's basement and refuse to leave home?
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I’ve always been of the opinion that it was a parent’s job to prepare their child to take on the responsibilities of being adult at the appropriate time so that they could function as such when mom and dad are no longer around.
I think most "helicopter parents" would agree with that statement. Where you and they might disagree is in defining the "appropriate time". As much as I have no intention of being one of those parents, and as much as I wouldn’t have stood for it as 20-something, I am curious to know how anybody can think that the "appropriate time" is anything but a subjective or even arbitrary determination.
Written By: Wulf
So, even though these students aren’t doing as good (ie lower grades,) they "feel" better about their college experience.

That’s a poor substitute for good grades.

What are these "helicopter parents" going to do after graduation? Go hover around their children during interviews, and their job?

There comes a time to shove the bird out of the nest.
Written By: Keith_Indy
My daughter just started college, so this is hitting home for me. I’m definitely not a helicopter parent, though. I won’t intervene on her behalf: she’ll have to fight her own battles. I’ll give her all the advice she asks for, and even help her with her Computer Science projects, but she’ll have to stand on her own two feet, even if it takes a fair amount of prodding from dad.
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
Keith, keep in mind that the article doesn’t say that their grades haven’t benefited. If these are students who would have failed without parental hovering, and are able to get low passing grades with parental hovering, then it’s not a poor substitute at all.

As a greater and greater percentage of the population attends university, we will see more and more students who don’t hack it on the traditional model. There are several ways for them to approach that problem. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, and it says nothing about the performance or maturity of the generation.
Written By: Wulf
we will see more and more students who don’t hack it on the traditional model.
Hah. You mean, more and more students who can’t hack it, and need someone else (their parents) to hack it for them. I guess if they are going to college just for something fun to do, there’s no problem with that. But to the extent that you view college as preparing you for a job and real life (it’s debatable, to be sure), is there another model besides the "traditional" one? Like someone said, can their parents go to their job interviews for them? "Mr. Jones, this is Bill Smith, Timmy Smith’s dad. Yeah, you interviewed him for a job in your firm last week, but he didn’t get the job. I’d like to talk to you about reasons why..." yeah, that’s a model for success.
Written By: Linus
URL: http://
i take it from the rhetoric of the article that college students are now considered children?
Written By: meh
URL: http://
...yeah, that’s a model for success.
Let’s face it, the jobs that require a college degree today are not the same kind of jobs that required a college degree a generation or two ago. What a degree signifies today is simply different from what it used to. Maybe more importantly, the lack of a degree signifies something different from what it used to. Thus, the requirements for getting the degree have also changed. If you feel that this is somehow wrong, that doesn’t change that it’s the way it is.

It’s easy for us to feel superior by making jokes about parents going to job interviews, but that’s not what this research is actually about. Take an average kid from the 1930s - what preparation did he have for the "real world"? How prepared would that same average kid with that same education (hint: no college, probably didn’t finish high school) be for today’s "real world"? Any honest answer will be a variation on "not very". And if a kid isn’t capable of finishing college in four years without some parental guidance, or doesn’t know how to get a good job without some parental guidance, what’s wrong about that? Keep in mind, the article does not say the parents are doing their homework for them, or haranguing their professors. It says students whose parents were very often in contact with them and frequently intervened on their behalf...

Don’t read your own interpretation into what is meant by "in contact" or "intervened". Telling your kid that you’ll cut off financial support if they don’t quit partying and go see the prof for extra help? It qualifies. Again, somebody tell me how this is wrong, and leaves a kid especially unprepared for the type of job that is available to the average 22-year-old graduate with no experience.

It’s very possible that these are the same type of people who have always needed some parental contact and guidance in order to be well adjusted and successful. Don’t kid yourself into believing that people like that didn’t exist prior to 1980. The difference may well be that they didn’t used to go to college, or didn’t used to succeed at college and get their degree. But as the degree is more necessary, those kids have to find a way to get it. It sounds like they are doing so.
Written By: Wulf
Undergrad college is becoming glorified high school. It’s the Grad schools that are the new "college".

I felt it was my job to get my kids through high school. After that - they should have all the tools to make it through college and/or into their own lives. My daughter did fine in college and continues to do very well now. My son hated college, joined the Army and is also doing fine. They both chose their own routes - it was their option on how to support themselves once they got out of high school.

I don’t support either of them financially and I don’t stick my nose into their affairs. If they need help, they ask and I or my husband are happy to provide it - oddly enough they seldom ask. Otherwise, I just remember how I would have felt if my parents had tried to run my life after I left for college. Geeze.

As I said - glorified high school.
Written By: Teresa
So where were the helicopter parents this year when the U of Delaware was moving to indoctrinate the 7000 students in the dorms against those racist white folks; thus having many of the kids go against themselves. Some alumni are up in arms, but I live in the area, it doesn’t seem that the parents are up in arms. Maybe the parents agree with the college; who knows. It seems that FIRE had to expose the PC gone wild program.

I had a problem with the college my sons attended. Because of privacy issues, they said, the college wouldn’t communicate directly with us; not even grades. My position was simply, no grades or other info, no money. Problem solved!
Written By: AMR
URL: http://
Another possible reason for the success of helicopter parents is the age of the student. When Congress, all those many years ago, declared 18 year olds as adults they effectively removed parents from the college student.

In the vast majority of cases it is the parents footing the bill, but have no legal standing with the university. Eighteen year olds have no more business undertaking adult responsibilities than the man in the moon.

The period between eighteen and twenty one gives the student the time to grow into adulthood, but still under the legal supervision of the parent(s).

I think this study only confirms that most students still need the guiding hand of their parents while growing into adulthood.
Written By: Ron
URL: http://
AMR: I don’t know about all universities, but at the ones I’ve taught at, for privacy reasons I’m not even supposed to acknowledge to the parents that the student is in my class, and I can only talk to them about their kid’s grades with their kid’s permission. I’ve fielded calls from parents before, and I had to follow policy strictly. This has nothing to do with who is paying for it or what information they’re entitled to; this is about privacy law. Anyone, even stalkers, could call up and say they were the parent and ask for information.

The assumption is that adults make their own payment arrangements for their education. If that arrangement involves a third party (like the parents or the feds) that demands accountability for grades etc., that’s not the professor’s business, nor should you be making it the professor’s business.
Written By: Wacky Hermit
Wacky Hermit wrote: "If that arrangement involves a third party (like the parents or the feds) that demands accountability for grades etc., that’s not the professor’s business, nor should you be making it the professor’s business."

Never said it was the profs responsibility, I just had a problem with that policy by the college, any college or for that matter any agency. If society really, really believes that 18 year olds are adults and masters of their own fates, why did government remove the drinking privilege from them? Just asking. I solved it directly with my boys. And I did having meetings with some professors which were very cordial and informative.
Written By: AMR
URL: http://

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