Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Study: Controlling parents create mean college kids


Public Release: 21-Jan-2016
Study: Controlling parents create mean college kids
University of Vermont

College students whose parents lay on the guilt or try to manipulate them may translate feelings of stress into similar mean behavior with their own friends, a new study by a University of Vermont psychologist has found.

Those students' physical response to stress influences the way they will carry out that hostility - either immediately and impulsively or in a cold, calculated way, concluded Jamie Abaied, a UVM assistant professor of psychological science.


Even after they leave home as legal adults, college students often still depend on parents for financial, as well as emotional, support. Some parents will nit-pick and find fault or threaten to withdraw affection (or money) as punishment or to force a desired outcome. With today's technology, parents can exercise that control wherever their kids go - with texts, email and social media keeping them in constant contact.

"You can do that from far away," Abaied says. "You don't have to be in person to manipulate your kids' thoughts and emotions."

The result can stunt their budding independence, Abaied concluded. "We need to be really mindful of how influential the parents are."

College students are less studied in relation to parental control, Abaied says, though psychologists have long recognized that heavy-handed parents trigger "relational aggression" in their children. Relational aggression involves a relationship with a friend or loved one and actions that harm feelings or damage social status: exclusion from a social event, rumor-mongering, backstabbing or public embarrassment.

With younger children, one might not invite another to a birthday party. Adolescents might try to embarrass or ostracize a peer, as in the "Mean Girls" movie about a high-school outsider who infiltrates then obliterates a popular female clique.


To determine the level of parental control, the students completed a questionnaire. Higher control correlated with higher aggression. Less-controlling parents created less aggression, Abaied says.

"It seems like good parenting protects them," she says of college students. "Good parenting prevents them from being aggressive in their peer relationships."


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