Date of Award

8-2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Stephen E. Craig

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary L. Anderson

Third Advisor

Dr. Marianne Di Pierro

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Brooks Applegate

Abstract

The social phenomenon of helicopter parenting (HP) has been rapidly growing. Although HP is generally characterized as overly involved parents who “hover” over their college student children (Cline & Fay, 1990), and some research efforts have been made in recent years on understanding the construct of HP, an essential weakness of the majority of these studies is the inadequate conceptualization of HP, both theoretically and operationally. The aim of the current study was to develop a new scale to measure the construct of helicopter parent controlling (HPC), and three questions were used to guide this study: (1) What are the underlying dimensions of the construct of HPC? (2) What is the relationship between HPC practices and college students’ perceived stress? (3) How do the effects of HPC practices on college students’ perceived stress differ when accounting for parental acceptance/warmth (AW)?

The study was cross-sectional survey research and the survey data were collected through self-reported online questionnaires. The two samples included 755 and 551 college students respectively from the Millennial generation (18 ≤ 33 years) who were enrolled in fall 2015. The convenient sampling approach was used in which all the data were collected at a large, public institution in the Midwest region of the United States. The instruments included the following: Helicopter Parenting Scale, Helicopter Parenting and Autonomy Supportive Behaviors, Helicopter Parenting Instrument, Overparenting, Helicopter Parent Controlling Scale, Child Report of Parent Behavior Inventory, and Perceived Stress Scale.

Using Mplus (7.4, Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2015), findings from both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses revealed the multidimensional nature of the HPC construct. Although the three-factor model had no cross loadings in the exploratory factor analyses, both three-factor and four-factor solutions had good model fitting and reliability, and both were interpretable. Using the three-factor solution, the HPC construct consisted of three dimensions: Precautionary Actions, Problem Solving, and Physical Concerns; while using the four-factor solution, the additional dimension was Whereabouts Concerns. Consistent with the HP literature, findings from the structural equation modeling analyses in Sample Two revealed positive, predictive relationships between Precautionary Actions and Stress, and between Problem Solving and Stress. When the factor of AW was added to the tested models, Precautionary Actions no longer predicted Stress, and Problem Solving became a stronger predictor of Stress. Further, AW served as a moderator on the link between Problem Solving and Stress.

The multidimensionality of the HPC construct indicated that helicopter parents not only “hovered” over their college-going children when issues or problems occurred, but these parents also intervened in their children’s lives in a broad way. To many Millennial college students, their parents’ controlling behaviors were not welcomed, and were perceived as intrusive. Despite helicopter parents’ controlling, their AW continued to play a vital role during the child’s college experience. For caring and supportive helicopter parents, college students no longer perceived parents’ solving problems on their behalf as negative. Limitations of the study, recommendations for future research, and implications for counseling and counselor education were also discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Campus Only

Restricted to Campus until

8-15-2018

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