Children of Helicopter Parents Tend to Live Less Longer
Author: Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo - Contact: fapesp.br/en
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Synopsis: Analysis of data for nearly 1,000 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing born in the 1950s and 1960s discovered children's relationships with parents influence longevity. Men who had an overprotective father and little autonomy during childhood may run a 12% higher risk of dying before their eightieth birthday. In the case of women who had an overprotective father, the risk of dying before the age of 80 can increase by 22%. On the other hand, for women who were well cared for by their mothers during childhood, the risk may decrease by 14%.
- Helicopter Parents
A helicopter parent (also called a cosseting parent or simply a cosseter) is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they "hover overhead," constantly overseeing every aspect of their child's life. A helicopter parent is also known to strictly supervise their children in all aspects of their lives, including in social interactions. Some helicopter parents continue advocating for their adult children at the graduate school level, such as advocating for their adult child's admission to law school or business school. As they entered the workforce, Human Resource officials reported helicopter parents showing up in the workplace or phoning managers to advocate on their adult child's behalf, even negotiating salaries for their adult children.
Gender Differences in the Association Between Adverse Events in Childhood or Adolescence and the Risk of Premature Mortality - Scientific Reports.
Men who had an overprotective father and little autonomy during childhood may run a 12% higher risk of dying before their eightieth birthday. In the case of women who had an overprotective father, the risk of dying before the age of 80 can increase by 22%. On the other hand, for women who were well cared for by their mother during childhood, the risk may decrease by 14%.
Interestingly, the research also showed that men who lived with only one parent in childhood had a 179% higher risk of dying before turning 80.
These are some of the findings of a study involving the analysis of data for 941 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) who died between 2007 and 2018 (445 women and 496 men). An article on the study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The authors are researchers at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) in Brazil and University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom. The study was supported by FAPESP.
The participants included in the study sample were born in the 1950s and 1960s.
"The results of our analysis refer to people who would now be elderly, and they wouldn't necessarily be the same for later generations," said Tiago Silva Alexandre, the last author of the article. Alexandre is a professor of gerontology at UFSCar.
The researchers analyzed the participants' answers to questionnaires about many aspects of their lives, including family structure, housing, the head of the household's occupation, the presence of infectious diseases, and relationships with parents in childhood and adolescence, especially care and protection. They looked for correlations among these items to estimate the impact of parental relationships on longevity.
"The most interesting thing about our study is that we were able to show in numbers what has been discussed about parenting for many years. Caring and loving relationships with your father and mother during childhood have repercussions for the rest of your life. In particular, our findings show how they affect longevity," Alexandre said. "Public policy should support better conditions during childhood for people to enjoy old age."
Research on the psychological after-effects of child-parent relationships has shown that authoritarianism, permissiveness, and negligence can negatively affect children's development.
"The middle way is best, avoiding both intrusiveness, which stops children from being autonomous, as well negligence or emotional distance. What we call care in the article is a matter of not neglecting but being present and taking care without overprotecting," said Aline Fernanda de Souza Canelada, the first author of the article. She participated in the study for her master's research.
The study is the first to investigate how the absence of a parent or bad parental relationships can reduce longevity.
"Children need parental care and support, but not an intrusion, which deprives the child of autonomy. Research in psychology shows that this kind of relationship is also weak because the child is afraid of the parent, which leads to various problems, including unhealthy habits, with some studies showing an increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as mental health difficulties such as stress, which correlates closely with reduced longevity," Canelada said.
Similarly, the lower risk for women who were well cared for by their mothers may be associated with a low-stress level during childhood (and hence adulthood). According to the study's results, only maternal care mattered; paternal relationships were not considered crucial.
"We know from studies in the area of psychology that all these phenomena relating to parental relationships affect behavior. There's a theory that links this to stress. Neglected children may experience higher levels of stress later in life owing to the reverberations of this early neglect, and the probability of disease increases," Alexandre said.
The researchers analyzed premature mortality independently from ill health and age.
"It would be incorrect to attribute the higher risk of early death to a past event without considering the presence of diseases and problems in old age. We, therefore, controlled for these variables and analyzed the correlations involving factors present in a subject's childhood with premature mortality regardless of their health in old age," he said.
Although the study focused on what happened to the "baby boom" generation born after the Second World War, the researchers believe it is not possible to be certain that the experience of more recent generations is very different.
"We know parents now overprotect their children differently, and this may also have an impact. It's a different kind of relationship, but it also has its fragilities," Alexandre said, citing the example of children who live with only one parent. The study pointed to a 179% higher risk of dying before age 80 for the male participants who lived with only one parent when they were children.
"In this case, cultural and social factors may have had a more significant effect than they do now. Having separated parents were seen differently in the past and could be particularly difficult for male children. We can't know how this would work out now, given our society, but it was very heavy for males born in the 1950s and 1960s, the study shows," he said.
The study also pointed to a difference between genders in terms of the impact on the longevity of parental absence or negative parental relationships. Overprotective parents affected the lifespans of female children more than male children, and the presence of a mother had a positive effect only on those of female children. According to Canelada, women are more likely to internalize negative emotions and more frequently suffer from mental disorders, while men are more subject to alcohol and drug abuse.
"In any event, both factors correlate closely with longevity," she said.
This peer reviewed article relating to our Longevity and Life Span section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Children of Helicopter Parents Tend to Live Less Longer" was originally written by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, and published by Disabled-World.com on 2023-02-06. Should you require further information or clarification, Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo can be contacted at fapesp.br/en. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.
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