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Helicopter Parenting Can Ruin Future Romance, Friendships

Update Date: Oct 23, 2014 06:42 PM EDT

Helicopter parenting can seriously impair the ability to form friendships and romantic relationships, according to a new study.

New research reveals that 13-year-olds whose parents exert more psychological control are more likely to have problems establishing friendships and romantic relationships that balanced intimacy and independence in adulthood.

The study defined parental psychological control as tactics using guilt, withdrawing love, fostering anxiety, or other psychologically manipulative strategies to control children's motivations and behaviors.

"These tactics might pressure teens to make decisions in line with their parents' needs and motivations rather than their own," researcher Barbara A. Oudekerk, a statistician with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, who led the study while a research associate at the University of Virginia, said in a news release. "Without opportunities to practice self-directed, independent decision making, teens might give in to their friends' and partners' decisions."

Participants were aged 13 to 18, and were asked to report the degree to which their parents used psychological control. Some examples include parents saying "If you really cared for me, you wouldn't do things to worry me," or acting less friendly toward their teens when the adolescents didn't see things in the same way the parents did.

Researchers also assessed teens' autonomy (their ability to reason, be an individual, and express confidence) and relatedness (their ability to show affection and connection) in friendships when the adolescents were 13, 18, and 21, and in romantic relationships at ages 18 and 21.

The findings revealed teens became increasingly worse at establishing autonomy and closeness in friendships and romantic relationships the more psychological control they experienced from their parents.

"Parents often fear the harmful consequences of peer pressure in adolescence," said Oudekerk. "Our study suggests that parents can promote or undermine teens' ability to assert their own views and needs to close friends and romantic partners. In addition, teens who learn-or fail to learn-how to express independence and closeness with friends and partners during adolescence carry these skills forward into adult relationships."

The findings are published in the journal Child Development.

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