Controlling Parents? Mean Kids

Listen up, helicopter parents (and yes, that means me).

A new study says controlling parents create mean college kids.

College students whose parents lay on the guilt or try to manipulate them may translate feelings of stress into similar mean behavior with their own friends, a new study by a University of Vermont psychologist has found.
Those students’ physical response to stress influences the way they will carry out that hostility – either immediately and impulsively or in a cold, calculated way, concludes Jamie Abaied, a UVM assistant professor of psychological science, reports.

Abaied looked at the link between “parental psychological control” and the young adults’ relationships with peers. 

Even after they leave home as legal adults, college students often still depend on parents for financial, as well as emotional, support. Some parents will nit-pick and find fault or threaten to withdraw affection (or money) as punishment or to force a desired outcome. With today’s technology, parents can exercise that control wherever their kids go – with texts, email and social media keeping them in constant contact.

“You can do that from far away,” Abaied says. “You don’t have to be in person to manipulate your kids’ thoughts and emotions.”

Pretty obviously, the result can stunt their budding independence, Abaied concludes.

Psychologists have long recognized that heavy-handed parents trigger “relational aggression” in their children. Relational aggression involves a relationship with a friend or loved one and actions that harm feelings or damage social status: exclusion from a social event, rumor-mongering, backstabbing or public embarrassment.

Adolescents might try to embarrass or ostracize a peer, as in the “Mean Girls” movie about a high-school outsider who infiltrates then obliterates a popular female clique.

Which all goes to say, parents, hands off (and that means me).


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