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The Effects on Children of Overparenting

by Melody Causewell

Most parents do their best to provide guidance in order to help their children live up to their potential. However, there is a limit to how much control is needed, especially if parents wish to encourage independence and autonomy. Understanding the negative effects associated with overparenting, overcontrol or overprotective behaviors may help parents to evaluate their role and adjust actions accordingly.

Issues With Adjustment

Overprotection and controlling behaviors may influence the ability of children to adjust to later autonomy, according to Illinois researchers. This study, published in Parenting: Science and Practice in 2013, found that while controlling behaviors contributed to conflict within the family, these effects were often lessened by behaviors that encouraged independence in children. However, the lower levels of autonomy along with controlling behaviors were found to be detrimental to social adjustment, a circumstance that may lead to behavioral or emotional issues such as anxiety. Parents who find themselves making all the decisions for their children may want to consider that with impaired adjustment, children may have trouble making appropriate decisions well into later life.

Anxiety

Overparenting behaviors may increase anxiety levels in children, according to research out of Johns Hopkins University. Published in Child Psychiatry and Human Development in 2012, this study found that controlling behaviors in mothers led to children who had fewer opportunities to develop the skills needed to make appropriate decisions. Without such opportunities, children believed that they were less competent, which triggered increases in anxiety levels. Additional research out of Johns Hopkins University agrees, reporting that parental control had even stronger associations to childhood social anxiety than parental rejection or parental mental health status. This research, published in Child Psychiatry and Human Development in 2011 concluded that parenting style should be addressed when dealing with anxious youth. Parents should be aware of the potential for anxiety in children without ample opportunity to explore independent decision making.

Behavioral Issues

Overparenting and overprotection behaviors may effect emotional function and behavior, according to research published in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2013. According to this study, mothers with early separation anxiety were more likely to exhibit overprotective behaviors -- such as refusing to let others hold the child or refusing to allow independent play -- over the first year of life. This type of extreme vigilance lead to children who had lower socioemotional functioning -- like independently dealing with their feelings -- and behavior issues -- including aggression -- at the 2 to 3 year mark. Mothers experiencing separation anxiety may benefit from therapeutic intervention to cope with these issues and avoid later problems in their children.

Depression

Parenting styles that include overparenting or intrusiveness may increase depression in children, according to Australian research published in the The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in 2004. In this study, authors found that regardless of the amount of affection and care given, maternal intrusiveness led to adolescents who had more negative mental health outcomes, specifically depression. Parents and children alike may benefit from family therapy to identify and discuss this type of overparenting behavior and improve mental health outcomes.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

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