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Holly Schiffrin - University of Mary Washington. Fredericksburg, VA, US

Holly Schiffrin Holly Schiffrin

Professor | University of Mary Washington

Fredericksburg, VA, UNITED STATES

Dr. Schiffrin is an internationally known expert on intensive and helicopter parenting.

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UMW's Holly Schiffrin: The UMW's Holly Schiffrin: Psychology of 21st Century Motherhood

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Biography

A New Jersey mother routinely questions her 20-year-old’s professor about her son’s grades; a Virginia couple repeatedly allows their young children to walk home from the playground unsupervised. Are these parents out of line? Too involved or too detached? Holly Schiffrin, professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, says extreme forms of parenting are unhealthy. An expert on intensive and helicopter parenting, Dr. Schiffrin says that over-controlling parents send an unintentional message to children that they can’t handle problems on their own. Free-range parenting, on the other hand, may put children in situations that they aren’t equipped to handle. A developmental psychologist, Dr. Schiffrin is co-author of Balancing the Big Stuff: Finding Happiness in Work, Family, and Life, as well as a chapter in Intensive Mothering: The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Motherhood. Her research on helicopter parenting published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies--with colleagues and students at the University of Mary Washington--has garnered international media attention, including The New York Times, The Guardian, Real Simple magazine, and Time magazine. Her scholarly research has been published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, the Journal of Positive Psychology, Cyberpsychology and Behavior, the Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics, and Research in Development Disabilities.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Emerging Adulthood

Helicopter Parenting

Positive Psychology

Infant and Child Development

Intensive Parenting

Accomplishments (3)

Distinguished Graduate in Residence (professional)

2015-01-01

Awarded by the University of Mary Washington.

Kirk Danhour Memorial Award (professional)

2015-01-01

Awarded by the University of Miami for an outstanding graduate psychology student.

Jepson Fellowship (professional)

2015-01-01

Awarded by the University of Mary Washington.

Education (3)

University of Miami: Ph.D., Applied Developmental Psychology 1998

University of Miami: M.Sc., Applied Developmental Psychology 1996

University of Mary Washington: B.Sc., Psychology 1994

Affiliations (5)

  • Virginia Association for Psychological Science : President-Elect
  • American Association for Psychological Science : Member
  • Society for the Teaching of Psychology : Member
  • Society for Research in Child Development : Member
  • International Positive Psychology Association : Member

Media Appearances (12)

Science suggests parents are taking parenting too far

theladders.com  online

2019-06-24

“When I was in college there was no parental involvement unless there was some kind of crisis,” says Dr. Holly Schiffrin, professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington. “It’s just a really different level of involvement now. Parents are giving kids feedback on their papers, or emailing or calling me and other faculty members. It’s not every student, but it’s shocking that it happens at all.”

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Science Suggests Parents are Taking Parenting Too Far

Yahoo.com  online

2019-06-14

“When I was in college there was no parental involvement unless there was some kind of crisis,” says Dr. Holly Schiffrin, professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington. “It’s just a really different level of involvement now. Parents are giving kids feedback on their papers, or emailing or calling me and other faculty members. It’s not every student, but it’s shocking that it happens at all.” “Intensive parenting really stresses the parent out,” Schiffrin says. “The research is looking like it’s not beneficial for kids to do everything for them because they don’t become self-sufficient and that is correlated with higher rates of depression and anxiety at the college level.”

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How much freedom do students have while choosing their undergraduate course?

The News Minute  online

2019-05-17

One study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that parents’ excessive involvement in their children’s lives yields unfavourable results. The lead author Holly Schiffrin argues, “Parents are sending an unintentional message to their children that they are not competent.” This is in turn, could result in feelings of depression and dissatisfaction.

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Develop a Gratitude Attitude

Max Sports & Fitness  online

2018-11-09

You’ll be happier: “Gratitude increases your personal experience of happiness and satisfaction with life,” says University of Mary Washington Psychology Professor Holly Schriffrin. It will strengthen your relationships for the better: “Expressing gratitude makes people around you happier and strengthens your relationship with them, and strong relationships are highly associated with greater happiness,” Schriffrin says.

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Balancing the Big Stuff with Drs. Miriam Liss and Holly Schiffrin

offtheclockpsych.com  online

2018-09-19

In this interview, psychology professors and authors Drs. Miriam Liss and Holly Schiffrin talk with us about their book, Balancing the Big Stuff: Finding Happiness in Work, Family, and Life.

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Homework Therapists’ Job: Help Solve Math Problems, and Emotional Ones

New York Times  online

2018-04-04

Holly Schiffrin, a professor of psychological science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., who researches adolescent development and depression, says she thinks a tutor who helps a struggling student with study skills and confidence makes sense. “But there should be a plan in place for them to become fully functioning, independent adults,” she said.

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What Parents Can Learn From a Town That Produced 11 Olympians

New York Times  online

2018-02-09

They intuitively sense what a 2013 study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies concluded: that overprotective or helicopter parents thwart a child’s basic psychological need for autonomy and competence, resulting in an uptick in depression and lower life-satisfaction levels.

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Black Mirror Arkangel: Are we already living in a dystopia of parental surveillance?

Alphr  online

2018-01-03

Not all signs point to helicopter parenting being such a bad thing. Dr Holly Schiffrin, who co-conducted a study into hovering helicopter parents and college-age students, tells me there is “a whole body of research that says parental involvement in general is beneficial for children”, both in terms of academic education and social interaction. She does, however, note that helicopter parenting has been linked to “young adults reporting more medication for anxiety and depression; more depressive symptoms; and dissatisfaction with life”.

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Does Your Mother Still Do Your Laundry?

Voice of America  online

2017-11-16

"Helicopter parenting is … parents being involved at a level that is inappropriate," said Holly Schiffrin, professor of psychological science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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Clear Goals, Immediate Feedback, and Realizing Our Potential: The Hidden Power of Mastery

PsychCentral.com  online

2017-08-15

To examine how parenting behaviors – and in particular, helicopter parenting, affects the psychological well-being of children, Holly Schiffrin and colleagues from the University of Mary Washington in the United States, asked a total of 297 American undergraduate students, aged 18-23 years, to answer an online survey.

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Quiz: Are You a Helicopter Grandparent?

nextavenue.org  online

2017-07-24

Answer these five questions to learn whether you’re too hands on.

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The Effects of Helicopter Parenting to College Students

University Herald  online

2017-01-17

A study published in Journal of Child and Family Studies led by associate professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, Holly Schiffrin, suggest that this is one way of parents to indirectly tell their children that they are not competent, and children need to grow up with feelings of autonomy, competence and connectedness to other people in order to feel happy, and helicopter parenting deprives their children of the first two.

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Event Appearances (9)

The Effects of Maternal and Paternal Helicopter Parenting on the Self-determination and Prosocial Behavior of Emerging Adults - 2020

32nd APS Annual Convention  Chicago, IL

The Effect of Maternal and Paternal Caregivers’ Failure Mindset and Helicopter Parenting on Emerging Adults’ Intelligence Mindset - 2020

32nd APS Annual Convention  Chicago, IL

Positive Psychology: The Science of Being Happier - 2019

Virginia Recreational Sports Association  Fredericksburg, VA

Teaching outside of the academy: The development and assessment of a parent education conference - 2019

National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology  St. Petersburg Beach, FL

Consolidated Helicopter Parenting Scale (CHPS) and its Relationship to Intelligence Mindsets - 2018

Association for Psychological Science Convention  San Francisco, CA

The Effects of Maternal and Paternal Helicopter Parenting on the Self-determination and Well-being of Emerging Adults - 2018

Association for Psychological Science Convention  San Francisco, CA

Growth Mindset and Positive Expectations about the Future: The Relationships Among Mindset, Self-Efficacy, Self-Compassion, and Optimism - 2017

Association for Psychological Science Convention  Boston, MA

Can the way we think lead to more success? The role of positive and negative monitoring on cognitive task performance - 2016

Association for Psychological Science Convention  Chicago, IL

Musings on inspiration: Inducing inspiration, increasing donations to charity - 2016

Association for Psychological Science Convention  Chicago, IL

Articles (8)

Relationships between Helicopter Parenting, Psychological Needs Satisfaction, and Prosocial Behaviors in Emerging Adults

Journal of Child and Family Studies

2021 The purpose of this study was to examine whether psychological needs satisfaction mediated the association between helicopter parenting and emerging adults’ prosocial tendencies. There were 288 participants with an average age of 19.72 (SD = 1.77) who completed an online survey including measures of maternal and paternal helicopter parenting; satisfaction of the psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness; as well as the prosocial outcomes of empathic concern, perspective-taking, and helping others. There was an indirect effect of maternal helicopter parenting on empathetic concern, perspective-taking, and prosocial behaviors through autonomy. There was also an indirect effect of both maternal and paternal helicopter parenting on empathetic concern through relatedness. Helicopter parenting was associated with less autonomy and sense of relatedness, which were both associated with fewer prosocial tendencies among emerging adults. There were no other direct or indirect effects of maternal or paternal helicopter parenting on emerging adults’ prosocial tendencies.

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The Effects of Maternal and Paternal Helicopter Parenting on the Self-determination and Well-being of Emerging Adults

Journal of Child and Family Studies

2019 We examined gender differences in helicopter parenting and emerging adults’ well-being through the basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Based on gender congruence theory, we hypothesized that daughters’ well-being would be more adversely impacted by their mothers’ helicopter parenting compared to fathers’, while the opposite pattern would emerge for sons. Participants were 446 college students between 18–25 years old who completed an online survey. The majority of participants were white, female, underclassman from middle to upper-middle class families. Participants reported that their mothers engaged in more helicopter parenting than their fathers. Male and female participants did not differ in the amount of helicopter parenting they experienced, so we tested a model combining these sub-samples. Two minor differences were identified: Daughters reported maternal helicopter parenting was more strongly associated with decreased autonomy and sons reported paternal helicopter parenting was more strongly associated with a decreased relatedness. Thus, a partial equivalence model was tested with only these two paths free to vary between groups.

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Examining the Relationship between Helicopter Parenting and Emerging Adults’ Mindsets Using the Consolidated Helicopter Parenting Scale

Journal of Child and Family Studies

2019 The purpose of this study was to develop a consolidated helicopter parenting scale (CHPS) from five existing measures of helicopter parenting and utilize the new measure to examine the relationship between helicopter parenting and intelligence mindset. Participants were 275 emerging adults between 18–25 years of age who completed an online survey. First, we conducted an Exploratory Factor Analysis of five helicopter parenting measures to develop a scale that reliably measured participants’ reports of helicopter parenting by both their mothers and fathers. Then, we utilized the new measure to examine whether helicopter parenting mediated the relationship between emerging adults’ report of their parents’ failure mindsets and their own intelligence mindsets. The 10 items retained in the factor analysis primarily captured emerging adults’ perception that their parents’ involvement was inappropriate rather than delineating objective behaviors in which their parents engaged. Both mothers and fathers were more likely to engage in helicopter parenting when emerging adults reported their parents had a failure mindset.

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Helping or hovering? The effects of helicopter parenting on college students' well-being

Journal of Child and Family Studies

2014 Parental involvement is related to many positive child outcomes, but if not developmentally appropriate, it can be associated with higher levels of child anxiety and depression. Few studies have examined the effects of over-controlling parenting, or “helicopter parenting,” in college students. Some studies have found that college students of over-controlling parents report feeling less satisfied with family life and have lower levels of psychological well-being. This study examined self-determination theory as the potential underlying mechanism explaining this relationship. College students (N = 297) completed measures of helicopter parenting, autonomy supportive parenting, depression, anxiety, satisfaction with life, and basic psychological needs satisfaction. Students who reported having over-controlling parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction with life. Furthermore, the negative effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being were largely explained by the perceived violation of students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence.

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Insight into the parenthood paradox: Mental health outcomes of intensive mothering

Journal of Child and Family Studies

2013 Though people often report wanting to have children because they think it will make them happier, much research suggests that parenting is associated with decreased well-being. Other studies have found that parenting is related to increased life satisfaction. The goal of this study was to provide insight into this paradox by investigating the relationship between a specific way of parenting, intensive parenting, and maternal mental health. An online survey was completed by 181 mothers with children ages 5 and under. Intensive mothering beliefs correlated with several negative mental health outcomes. Controlling for perceived family social support, the belief that women are the essential parent was related to lower life satisfaction and believing that parenting is challenging was related to greater depression and stress. The results of this study suggest that aspects of intensive mothering beliefs are detrimental to women’s mental health. It may not be parenting per se, but specific and particularly intensive ways of parenting, that relate to negative mental health outcomes.

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Development and validation of a quantitative measure of intensive parenting attitudes

Journal of Child and Family Studies

2013 Intensive mothering (IM) attitudes have been considered the dominant discourse of motherhood, but have only been assessed qualitatively The goal of this study was to develop a quantitative scale to assess these ideologies, their construct validity, and their relationship to relevant constructs (i.e., work status and division of household labor). An on-line questionnaire was given to 595 mothers asking 56 questions assessing different aspects of IM attitudes as well as several validation measures. An Exploratory Factor Analysis on 315 randomly selected mothers yielded a 5 factor solution. A Confirmatory Factor Analysis on the remaining 280 mothers demonstrated good fit. The five factors expressed the ideas that (1) women are inherently better at parenting than men (Essentialism), (2) parenting should be fulfilling (Fulfillment), (3) children should be cognitively stimulated by parents (Stimulation), (4) mothering is difficult (Challenging), and (5) parents should prioritize the needs of the child (Child-Centered). Scales had adequate reliability and construct validity compared to the Parental Investment in the Child questionnaire, the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, and Beliefs about Maternal Employment.

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Stressed and happy? Investigating the relationship between happiness and perceived stress

Journal of Happiness Studies

2010 Developing interventions to increase happiness is a major focus of the emerging field of positive psychology. Common beliefs about the need to reduce stress to obtain happiness suggest that stress management activities should be included in these interventions. However, the research on the relationship between positive and negative affect is equivocal. Theoretically, they are conceptualized as independent dimensions, but research has often found an inverse relationship between happiness and stress. In addition, the research generally attempts to assess stress objectively rather than in terms of the cognitive appraisal process. The current study examines the relationship between perceived stress and happiness among 100 college students to determine if the same inverse relationship exists. Linear correlations between happiness and perceived stress were significant indicating that there was an inverse relationship between these variables. The discussion focuses on several factors that might help to explain the observed relationship.

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The associations among computer-mediated communication, relationships, and well-being

Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

2010 Social support provided by interpersonal relationships is one of the most robust correlates of well-being. Self-disclosure serves as a basic building block of these relationships. With the rapid growth of the Internet in recent years, the question remains how self-disclosure, and subsequently relationships and well-being, differ when people communicate over the Internet rather than in person. The purpose of this article is to describe current Internet usage patterns as well as explore the association of Internet usage and well-being. Additionally, it directly compares the perceived benefits of face-to-face communication and computer-mediated communication. A questionnaire was administered to 99 undergraduates to measure Internet usage patterns, communication partners, self-disclosure, extraversion, and subjective well-being. Although Internet communication was found to be common, individuals perceived computer-mediated communication to be less useful than face-to-face communication.

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