our everyday life

How an Overbearing Parent Can Lead to Relationship Problems

by Leyla Norman, studioD

Parents who control nearly every aspect of their children’s lives can harm their abilities not only to be independent and take care of themselves as an adult but also to have effective relationships with others. The parent-child relationship also suffers significantly when a parent is overbearing. Trust between child and parent can be broken when a parent has too much of a say in her child’s life. Releasing the child to make decisions on her own can help her to have better relationships.


Overbearing parents are strong-willed. Parents who are strong-willed are determined to manage most aspects of their children's lives, and they will persist in their management despite a child trying to gain some independence, according to Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D. of Psychology Today. Overbearing parents are also sometimes called "helicopter parents," and they may try to live vicariously through their children and be too involved in their children's lives.

Parent-Child Relationship

The parent-child relationship is one that is often negatively affected by an overbearing parent. For example, adolescents can become strong-willed when their parents are overbearing and strong-willed, too. Pickhardt further writes that adolescents often will struggle to gain their independence while their parents escalate their discipline to extreme measures. Eventually the adolescent may become more resistant, either actively or passively. Adolescents may also become manipulative and deceitful, skills they will take with them into new relationships as they get older. Tweens and teens may also become submissive, becoming dependent and willing to do what others tell them when their parents are overbearing.

Parental Restraining Order

As reported in TheBlaze.com, in 2012, Aubrey Ireland, a talented senior who made good grades and acted, was granted a restraining order against her "helicopter parents," who made her life on and off campus difficult. Her parents installed tracking devices on her phone and computer, showed up on campus for unannounced visits on a regular basis and let her department head know that she had mental problems, among other things. The University of Cincinnati hired security guards to keep her parents out of her performances, and it granted her a scholarship to complete her last year of school when her parents refused to pay her tuition because Ireland did not communicate with them. In this case, being an overbearing parent led to a painful ending of a parent-child relationship.


In a February 2013 article, the UK publication “The Daily Mail” summarized the findings of a University of Mary Washington study conducted in the United States and published online in the “Journal of Child and Family Studies." Study participants were college students between 18 and 23 years of age who had overbearing parents as children. The study suggested that "helicopter parents” should decrease their level of involvement and control in their children’s lives as they get older, as study participants who noted their parents were overbearing left them feeling depressed, less competent and independent, and less able to have good relationships as adults.

About the Author

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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