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UArizona study finds perfectionists more prone to helicopter parenting

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PHOENIX – People who are classified as perfectionists may be more prone to helicopter parenting, according to a study from the University of Arizona.

Helicopter parents engage in what is known as over-parenting, which entails hovering around their children who are young adults and taking care of tasks they should be able to do for themselves, like cooking, cleaning or paying bills, according to researchers.

“The problem appears to be the parent’s unwillingness to adjust their parenting style to suit the needs of a child who is clearly much more capable and autonomous,” University of Arizona researcher Chris Segrin told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “They still kind of treat the child like they’re still 12 or 13 years old.”

Over-parenting can lead to a host of issues including psychological distress, narcissism, alcohol and drug use, poor adjustment and other behavioral problems in adults aged 18 to 25.

Segrin and co-authors Tricia Burke from Texas State University and Trevor Kauer from the University of Nebraska found perfectionism is closely associated with helicopter parenting.

The first study that UArizona researchers conducted included working with 302 parents of young adults. They asked them to rate a series of statements designed to rate their engagement around over-parenting and perfectionism.

In the second study, researchers surveyed 290 parent-young adult pairs where the young adults were asked to respond to statements designed to measure how they perceived their parent’s parenting style.

Segrin said there are signs that parents can watch out for to avoid becoming a helicopter parent.

“Helicopter-parenting is closely aligned with what we call anxious parenting, so anxiety seems to be a prominent problem in helicopter parents,” Segrin said. “One obvious recommendation is to take steps to manage anxiety, sometimes this is even reaching a clinical level where people might benefit from consultation with a health care professional.”

He also advised parents to take a look at how they were treated by their own parents. If their parents set unrealistically high expectations or were critical of their performance, those parents are more susceptible to becoming perfectionist parents.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.  

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