They are the generation often accused of being overly sensitive ‘snowflakes’, but if young people are struggling to cope with life, their clingy parents may bear some responsibility.
A study has found the so-called ‘Gen-Z’ individuals aged 16 to 22 worry far more when they have ‘helicopter’ parents over-involved in their lives.
At a time when young people are unusually ‘close and communicative’ with their parents, those with controlling parents are more anxious about the transition to adulthood.
Researchers led by the University of Mississippi surveyed 335 students who had just left home and started higher education about their relationship with their parents.
They found those who believed their parents gave them less independence were more anxious about the transition to college, with stronger worries about workload, money and if others would like them.
The authors suggest controlling parents may leave children without some of the coping skills they need for adulthood.
Dr Carrie Smith, the senior author of the study from the University of Mississippi, said: ‘I think what this means for parents is understanding that their relationships with their children are important even when those children are leaving home.
‘In addition, I think parents may be interested in learning that how they parent is important – over-involvement is associated with negative outcomes, but parenting that is autonomy-supportive, with kids feeling that their parents support their choices, is associated with positive outcomes.’
The ‘snowflake’ label has frequently been attached to millennials, who are aged between up to 38, but it also applies to the younger generation.
Students in particular often face accusations of being overly sensitive and fragile, as universities across Britain have been forced to provide ‘trigger warnings’ to inform them of content in Shakespeare plays and the history curriculum they might find offensive.
The US study questioned people about to become students after leaving home for the first time on their worries.
These included not being able to handle the workload, not having enough money, failing to transition to college, sounding stupid in class and other people thinking badly of them.
People who reported having over-involved parents were far more likely to be worried about the transition to college. These worriers were more likely to say they had ‘overprotective’ parents, who tended to ‘baby’ them and tried to control them.
But those young people who believed their parents gave them more independence were more optimistic. They more often said their parents allowed them to make their own decisions, gave them freedom and let them be themselves.
The study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, found the children of controlling parents were also more likely to feel guilty about surpassing them if they did well at university.
It states: ‘When parents become over-involved and controlling, they are engaging in “helicopter parenting”, which is associated with negative psychological outcomes for their children, including increased depression, increased anxiety, reduced self-efficacy, and alienation from peers.’