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 Intensive Mothering: The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Motherhood and Balancing the Big Stuff: Finding Happiness in Work, Family, and Life. Her research on helicopter parenting published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies--with colleagues at the University of Mary Washington--has garnered international media attention, including The Guardian, Real Simple and Time magazine.
Her scholarly research has been published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, Food and Nutrition Bulletin, Research in Development Disabilities, the Journal of Positive Psychology, Cyberpsychology and Behavior, and the Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Statistics and Methods
Infant and Child Development
Distinguished Graduate in Residence (professional)
Awarded by the University of Mary Washington.
Kirk Danhour Memorial Award (professional)
Awarded by the University of Miami for an outstanding graduate psychology student.
Jepson Fellowship (professional)
Awarded by the University of Mary Washington.
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
- Virginia Psychological Association, Virginia Academic and Applied Psychologist Academy : President
- 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
“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.”
Science Suggests Parents are Taking Parenting Too Far
“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.”
How much freedom do students have while choosing their undergraduate course?
The News Minute online
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.
Develop a Gratitude Attitude
Max Sports & Fitness online
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.
Balancing the Big Stuff with Drs. Miriam Liss and Holly Schiffrin
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.
Homework Therapists’ Job: Help Solve Math Problems, and Emotional Ones
New York Times online
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.
What Parents Can Learn From a Town That Produced 11 Olympians
New York Times online
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.
Black Mirror Arkangel: Are we already living in a dystopia of parental surveillance?
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”.
Does Your Mother Still Do Your Laundry?
Voice of America online
"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.
Clear Goals, Immediate Feedback, and Realizing Our Potential: The Hidden Power of Mastery
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.
Quiz: Are You a Helicopter Grandparent?
Answer these five questions to learn whether you’re too hands on.
The Effects of Helicopter Parenting to College Students
University Herald online
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.
Event Appearances (1)
"Can the way we think lead to more success? The role of positive and negative monitoring on cognitive task performance." "Musings on inspiration: Inducing inspiration, increasing donations to charity.
Association for Psychological Science Convention Chicago
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...