Intrusive Parents Make Kids More Anxious, Study Suggests

'Parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children.'

Intrusive parents are being urged to take a step back as their constant involvement could make their children more anxious.

A study has suggested the style of parenting in which mums and dads pay extremely close attention to a child's experiences and problems, known as 'helicopter parenting', results in kids being afraid to make mistakes.

In the study, published online in the Journal of Personality, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found 60% of children who had this type of parent were more likely to be self-critical.

Researchers also found 78% of those children showed signs of "socially-prescribed" perfectionism, described as a "rejection of personal flaws based on the expectations of society".

“Our findings indicate that in a society that emphasises academic excellence, which is the situation in Singapore, parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children," said Assistant Professor Ryan Hong, who led the study at the NUS.

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"As a result, a sizeable segment of children may become fearful of making mistakes," Professor Hong continued.

"Also, because they are supposed to be ‘perfect’, they can become disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies and seek help when needed, further exacerbating their risk for emotional problems."

In the study of 263 seven-year-olds between 2010 and 2014, researchers gave each child a puzzle to complete within a time limit.

Parents were given instructions and told they could help at any time. Those parents who did intervene were assessed for more controlling traits.

The children of parents who intervened were found to be more likely to be fearful of making mistakes.

Dr Hong said when parents become intrusive in their children’s lives, it may signal to the child that what they do is never good enough.

As a result, the child may become afraid of making the slightest mistake and will blame himself or herself for not being ‘perfect’.

He added: "Over time, such behaviour, known as maladaptive perfectionism, may be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing as it increases the risk of the child developing symptoms of depression, anxiety and even suicide in very serious cases."

Following on from the study, the researchers at the NUS gave some guidance for parents who may feel they fall in this category.

Professor Hong explained: “One small practical tip might be the way we ask our children about their academic performance. For instance, instead of asking: 'Did you get full marks on your test?' Parents can try asking: 'How did you do on your test?'"

Professor Hong also advised that if a child did not do as well as expected in a test, parents should refrain from blaming the child for not performing up to expectations.

In April 2016, Dr Abilash Gopal, an inpatient adolescent psychiatrist, said "overparenting" is "robbing children of the opportunity to learn how to function independently in the real world".

"If we continue to overparent our kids, we are in danger of raising further generations of adolescents that are missing three key virtues of character: self-reliance, self-confidence, and resilience," he told The Huffington Post.

"The coddled child becomes the entitled teenager.

"The teen who expects his parents to fix his problems becomes the college student who demands that professors and administrators remove his obstacles."

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