Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 860–871 | Cite as

Indulgent Parenting, Helicopter Parenting, and Well-being of Parents and Emerging Adults

  • Ming CuiEmail author
  • Carol A. Darling
  • Catherine Coccia
  • Frank D. Fincham
  • Ross W. May
Original Paper



Research on indulgent parenting in childhood and adolescence and its association with helicopter parenting in emerging adulthood and the well-being of parents and emerging adult children is limited. In this study, we examined (1) the association between indulgent parenting in childhood and adolescence and helicopter parenting in emerging adulthood, (2) the association between indulgent parenting and parents’ parenting stress and negative well-being, and (3) whether helicopter parenting mediated the association between indulgent parenting and emerging adults’ psychological problems.


The sample was composed of 449 college students with a subsample of 142 parent-student dyads.


Results from analyses on parents (Part I, N = 142) and emerging adults (Part II, N = 449) suggested that (1) indulgent parenting in childhood and adolescence was associated with helicopter parenting in emerging adulthood (b = .69, p < .01 in Part I; b = .58, p < .01 in Part II), (2) there was a positive association between indulgent parenting and parents’ negative well-being (b = .26, p < .01 in Part I) and parenting stress (b = .29, p < .01 in Part I), and (3) helicopter parenting mediated the association between indulgent parenting and emerging adults’ depressive and anxiety symptoms and emotional dysregulation (.15, 95% CI .03 to .43 in Part II).


Implications for parenting and emerging adult health programs were discussed.


Emerging adulthood Helicopter parenting Indulgent parenting Parenting stress Well-being 


Author Contributions

M.C.: designed and executed the study, performed data analyses, and wrote the paper. C.A.D.: collaborated with the design of the study and editing of the final manuscript. C.C.: assisted with manuscript editing. F.D.F.: assisted with manuscript editing. R.W.M.: assisted with data collection and editing of the final manuscript.


This study was funded by the National Council on Family Relations Innovation Grant Program.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human subjects were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Florida State University and Florida International University.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. ABC News (2007). Helicopter parents hover over kids’ lives.
  2. ABC News (2009). “Helicopter moms:” Hurting or helping your kids?
  3. Abidin, R. R. (1992). The determinants of parenting behavior. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 21, 407–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Abidin, R. R. (1995). Parenting stress index. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.Google Scholar
  5. Ashton-James, C. E., Kushlev, K., & Dunn, E. W. (2013). Parents reap what they sow: child-centrism and parental well-being. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 635–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bahr, S., & Hoffmann, J. (2010). Parenting style, religiosity, peers, and adolescent heavy drinking. Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs, 71, 539–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.Google Scholar
  8. Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bayer, J. K., Sanson, A. V., & Hemphill, S. A. (2006). Parent influences on early childhood internalizing difficulties. J Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 542–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beck, A. T., Epstein, N., Brown, G., & Steer, R. A. (1988). An inventory for measuring clinical anxiety: psychometric properties. Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology, 6, 893–897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bradley-Geist, J. C., & Olson-Buchanan, J. B. (2014). Helicopter parents: an examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students. Education Training, 56, 314–328. Scholar
  12. Bredehoft, D., & Walcheski, M. (2008). Overindulgence: parental overindulgence assessment scale (1.2). St. Paul, MN: Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, Concordia University.Google Scholar
  13. Chen, X., Liu, M., & Li, D. (2000). Parental warmth, control, and indulgence and their relations to adjustment in Chinese children: a longitudinal study. Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 401–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clarke, J. I., Dawson, C., & Bredehoft, D. (2014). How much is too much?. Boston: De Capo Press.Google Scholar
  15. Coccia, C., & Darling, C. A. (2017). Indulgent parenting and life satisfaction of college students: examination of eating, weight, and body image. Journal of Family Issues, 38, 1191–1214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coccia, C., Darling, C. A., Rehm, M., Cui, M., & Sathe, S. K. (2012). Adolescent health, stress and life satisfaction: the paradox of indulgent parenting. Stress and Health, 28, 211–221. Scholar
  17. Crnic, K. A., & Low, C. (2002). Everyday stresses and parenting. In M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 5. Practical issues in parenting. 2nd Ed (pp. 243–267). Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum.Google Scholar
  18. Cui, M., Allen, J., Fincham, F.D., May, R.W., & Love, H. (2018). Helicopter parenting, self-regulatory processes, and alcohol use among female college students. Journal of Adult Development.
  19. Cui, M., Darling, C. A., Lucier-Greer, M., Fincham, F. D., & May, R. W. (2018). Parental indulgence: profiles and effects on young adults’ emotional and behavioral problems. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2456–2466. Scholar
  20. Cui, M., Graber, J., Metz, A., & Darling, C. (2016). Parental indulgence, self-regulation, and young adults’ behavioral and emotional problems. Journal of Family Studies.
  21. Darling, C. A., Rehm, M., Coccia, C., & Cui, M. (2015). Adolescent eating behavior: the role of indulgent parenting. Families in Society, 96, 257–267. Scholar
  22. Dearing, E., & Hamilton, L. C. (2006). Contemporary advances and classic advice for analyzing mediating and moderating variables. Monographs of the Society Research in Child Development, 71, 88–104.Google Scholar
  23. Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Elder, G. H., & Giele, J. Z. (Eds.) (2009). The craft of life course research. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  25. Fletcher, A., Steinberg, L., & Sellers, E. (1999). Adolescents’ well-being as a function of perceived interparental consistency. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61, 599–610. Scholar
  26. Fritz, M. S., & MacKinnon, D. P. (2007). Required sample size to detect the mediated effect. Psychological Science, 18, 233–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gar, N. S., & Hudson, J. L. (2008). An examination of the interactions between mothers and children with anxiety disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46, 1266–1274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. García, F., & Gracia, E. (2014). The indulgent parenting style and developmental outcomes in South European and Latin American countries. In H. Selin (Ed.), Parenting across cultures (pp. 419–433). Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Goodman, S. H., & Tully, E. (2008). Children of depressed mothers. Implications for the etiology, treatment, and prevention of depression in children and adolescents. In J. Z. Abela & B. L. Hankin (Eds.), Handbook of depression in children and adolescents (pp. 415–440). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kindlon, D. (2001). Too much of a good thing. New York: Hyperion.Google Scholar
  31. Kline, R.B. (2015). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. New York: Guilford publications.Google Scholar
  32. Kouros, C., Pruitt, M., Ekas, N., Kiriaki, R., & Sunderland, M. (2017). Helicopter parenting, autonomy support, and students’ mental health and well-being: the moderating role of sex and ethnicity. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 939–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lavee, Y., Sharlin, S., & Katz, R. (1996). The effect of parenting stress on marital quality an integrated mother-father model. Journal of Family Issues, 17, 114–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. LeMoyne, T., & Buchanan, T. (2011). Does “hovering” matter? Helicopter parenting and its effect on well-being. Sociol Spectrum, 31, 399–418. Scholar
  35. Lenhard, W., & Lenhard, A. (2014). Hypothesis tests for comparing correlations. Bibergau (Germany): Psychometrica.Google Scholar
  36. Lorenz, F. O., Conger, R. D., Simon, R. L., Whitbeck, L. B., & Elder, Jr, G. H. (1991). Economic pressure and marital quality: An illustration of the method variance problem in the causal modeling of family processes. Jouranl of Marriage and Family, 53, 375–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lorenz, F. O., Melby, J. N., Conger, R. D., & Xu, X. (2007). The effects of context on the correspondence between observational ratings and questionnaire reports of hostile behavior: a multitrait, multimethod approach. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 498–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: parent-child interaction. In P. H. Mussen, E. M. Hetherington, (Eds.) Handbook of Child Psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development. 4th Edn. (pp. 1–101). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  39. Nelson, L. J., Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Nielson, M. G. (2015). Is hovering smothering or loving? An examination of parental warmth as a moderator of relations between helicopter parenting and emerging adults’ indices of adjustment. Emerging Adulthood, 3, 282–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The pains and pleasures of parenting: when, why, and how is parenthood associated with more or less well-being? Psychological Bulletin, 140, 846–895.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nomaguchi, K. (2012). Parenthood and psychological well-being: clarifying the role of child age and parent-child relationship quality. Social Sciences Research, 41, 489–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Odenweller, K., Booth-Butterfield, M., & Weber, K. (2014). Investigating helicopter parenting, family environments, and relational outcomes for millennials. Communication Studies, 65, 407–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Nelson, L. J. (2012). Black hawk down?: establishing helicopter parenting as a distinct construct from other forms of parental control during emerging adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 1177–1190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rehm, M., Darling, C., Coccia, C., & Cui, M. (2016). Parents’ perspectives on indulgence: Remembered experiences and meanings when they were adolescents and as current parents of adolescents. Journal of Family Studies.
  46. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–80. Scholar
  47. Schafer, J. L. (1997). Analysis of incomplete multivariate data. London: Chapman & Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schiffrin, H. H., Liss, M., Miles-Mclean, H., Geary, K. A., Erchull, M. J., & Tashner, T. (2014). Helping or hovering? The effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 548–557. Scholar
  49. Sears, R. R., Maccoby, E. E., & Levin, H. (1957). Patterns of child rearing. Evanston, IL: Row Peterson.Google Scholar
  50. Segrin, C., Woszidlo, A., Givertz, M., Bauer, A., & Murphy, M. T. (2012). The association between overparenting, parent-child communication, and entitlement and adaptive traits in adult children. Family Relations, 61, 237–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Segrin, C., Woszidlo, A., Givertz, M., & Montgomery, N. (2013). Parent and child traits associated with overparenting. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 32, 569–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Smetana, J. G. (1995). Parenting styles and conceptions of parental authority during adolescence. Child Development, 66, 299–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Somers, P., & Settle, J. (2010). The helicopter parent: research toward a typology. College and University: The Journal of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars, 86, 18–27.Google Scholar
  54. van Ingen, D. J., Freiheit, S. R., Steinfeldt, J. A., Moore, L. L., Wimer, D. J., Knutt, A. D., & Roberts, A. (2015). Helicopter parenting: the effect of an overbearing caregiving style on peer attachment and self-efficacy. Journal of College Counseling, 18, 7–20. Scholar
  55. Victor, S. E., & Klonsky, E. D. (2016). Validation of a brief version of the difficulties in emotion regulation scale (DERS-18) in five samples. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 38, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ming Cui
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carol A. Darling
    • 1
  • Catherine Coccia
    • 2
  • Frank D. Fincham
    • 3
  • Ross W. May
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Family and Child SciencesFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Dietetics and NutritionFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Family InstituteFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations