Helicopter parenting or free range parenting? The issue is hotly debated on mommy sites around the web. The vicious debates typically end with no resolution and lots of harmed parental feelings. In the end, it is likely there is a fine middle ground, but far from it by me to suggest such a reasonable solution.

A new study published in the Journal of Personality is claiming that “intrusive” parents are the cause of their child’s anxiety. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found 60% of children who had this type of parent were more likely to be self-critical. The same researchers also found that 78% of those children suffer from a “rejection of personal flaws based on the expectations of society.”

“Our findings indicate that in a society that emphasises academic excellence, which is the situation in Singapore, parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children,” said Professor Ryan Hong, who led the study.


“As a result, a sizeable segment of children may become fearful of making mistakes,” Professor Hong continued.

“Also, because they are supposed to be ‘perfect’, they can become disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies and seek help when needed, further exacerbating their risk for emotional problems.”

The study consisted of 263 seven-year-olds. Children were given puzzles to complete under a certain time limit. When parents intervened, problems seemed to arise. Children seem to become aware of the parental monitoring and fear making a mistake.

“Over time, such behaviour, known as maladaptive perfectionism, may be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing as it increases the risk of the child developing symptoms of depression, anxiety and even suicide in very serious cases.”

Professor Hong explained: “One small practical tip might be the way we ask our children about their academic performance. For instance, instead of asking: ‘Did you get full marks on your test?’ Parents can try asking: ‘How did you do on your test?’”

Photo by Lars Plougmann

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