Helicopter Parenting & Adolescents With ADHD: Associations and Conclusions

Helicopter parenting in teens with ADHD: What are the types and how do they affect children?

CONFERENCE REPORTER

Helicopter parenting is understudied, especially in parents of adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At the American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders (APSARD) 2022 virtual conference, Brooke Molina, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh and her colleagues presented a poster detailing their findings on the psychometric properties of helicopter parenting in adolescents with ADHD.

“Most people have heard of the over-involved and controlling helicopter parent before, but this is a relatively new field of study,” Molina stated.

Helicopter parenting was established as a distinct form of parental control, separate from behavioral or psychological, in 2012.1 Molina shared that most research on helicopter parenting was conducted with college-aged participants, leaving a gap in knowledge about effects on adolescents—a gap she and her colleagues hoped to fill.

Molina and colleagues evaluated responses from 341 parents and 333 adolescents aged 13 to 18 with ADHD enrolled in a study on efficacy of primary care physician training on stimulant diversion prevention, in the hopes of examining the factor structure of helicopter parenting in adolescents ADHD.

Assessing statements included items like:

-“I make important decisions for my teen (eg, which classes to take, what activities to do, if and where they work).”

-“My parents take over when I have problems with friends.”

-“I manage my teen’s money for them.”

-“My parents solve any crisis or problem I might have.”

-“My parents make plans for me to hang out with friends.”

A 2-component solution best fit their data. The first parenting type, labeled “intervention helicopter parenting,” encapsulated how likely parents were to intervene when their child has a problem or a decision to make. The second parenting type, “monitoring/short-term planning helicopter parenting,” characterizes how likely parents were to provide ongoing oversight or make plans for their child.

Higher averages of both types together were found in single parent homes. Higher averages of intervention helicopter parenting were found in families of a marginalized racial or ethnic identity (t(89.8)=2.73, p <.01), or if the child was assigned male sex at birth (t(157)=2.79, p <.01), and was positively associated with parental warmth (r =.18, p <.01). Monitoring/short-term planning helicopter parenting was higher amongst parents who had younger adolescents.

Both helicopter parenting types were associated with higher parental knowledge of the child’s activities and correlated with positive parenting.

Molina concluded that more research is needed to determine if these behaviors are adaptive.

Reference

1. Padilla-Walker LM, Nelson LJ. Black hawk down?: Establishing helicopter parenting as a distinct construct from other forms of parental control during emerging adulthood. J Adolesc. 2012;35(5):1177-1190.