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The Psychological Effects of Strict and Overprotective Parents

by Brenda Scottsdale, studioD

Warm, nurturing parents who set firm limits and boundaries tend to raise children with high self-esteem, independence and optimal intellectual development, according to an article published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. There is evidence, however, that too much of a good thing becomes harmful for children, as overprotective and too-strict parenting styles have detrimental effects on children.


In meta-analysis of research into parenting styles, entitled, "The Relationship Between Parenting and Delinquency: A Meta-analysis" and published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, authors report that a psychologically controlling parenting style was strongly associated with childhood anti-social behavior and delinquency. The effect was strongest for parents who combined a controlling style with neglect, hostility or rejection. Overprotective parenting was moderately associated with childhood delinquency. By contrast, the authors reported that a moderate level of monitoring and consistent, reasonable disciplinary limits were correlated with low levels of delinquency.


Author David Pimentel, Ph.D., writes that 21st century parenting trends favor an overprotective parenting style, based on adults' unfounded fears of the dangers faced by their children, as fueled by the media. The children of overprotective, rigid parents fail to systematically learn from their mistakes and, therefore, fail to become independent. The stereotype is an immature adult who defers to his parents for even basic decision making and continues to live at home well into his adulthood.

Poor Self-Esteem

When these dependent adults attempt new tasks, they tend to fail because they have not developed fundamental skills as children. This lack of competency leads to feelings of poor self-esteem, lack of self-confidence and increased dependency. Pimentel notes that, in some cases, the children of overprotective, strict parents display an inability to manage even daily stressors, have poor time management skills, lack of creativity and fail to enjoy new experiences.

Relationship Harmony

Ruth Chao, Ph.D., and Vivian Tseng, Ph.D., wrote in their book "Asian Parents" that children raised by overprotective, strict parents report having trouble as adults in maintaining harmonious relationships. Some of these children, for example, were still giving large sums of money to their parents, which interferes with their ability to contribute financially to their own nuclear families. Others could not make decisions in their own marriages, instead deferring for their parents to make life-changing decisions for their own families.

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

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