Being a 'helicopter mother' could land you with depression: Parents
whose lives revolve around their children damage their health
00:54 GMT, 7 July 2012
Parenthood is supposed to be one of life’s most fulfilling experiences.
But mothers whose lives revolve around their children may be more likely to suffer from depression, according to a study.
American researchers questioned 181 women with children under five and found ‘intensive mothering’ damaged their mental health.
The trend for mothers in particular to be extremely involved in their child’s every experience is known as ‘helicopter parenting’, with psychologists saying it leaves children fragile and unable to cope with life’s experiences.
The researchers said the women who showed symptoms of depression were far more likely to endorse intensive parenting
The researchers defined intensive mothering as women who believe they make better parents than men, that mothering should revolve around the child’s needs – who should also always be intellectually stimulated – and that children should be seen as ‘sacred, delightful and fulfilling’ by their parents.
The researchers, from the University of Mary Washington, Virginia, said this obsession with being perfect is common to many middle-class parents and may be making them miserable.
The women, aged 18 to 49, were mostly middle-class and married or in long-term relationships.
They were asked a series of questions designed to identify their parenting style.
Women who believed mothers were the most important parents and were reluctant to let others help them care for their child were found to be less satisfied with their lives, while those who saw parenting as a challenge requiring specialist knowledge and skills were more likely to be stressed and depressed.
Nearly one in four of the women displayed signs of depression, even after taking into account the support new mothers receive from their family – which is thought to have an important effect on mental health.
Most of the mothers worked, although ‘intensive mothers’ often said parenting was more stressful than a job. Lead author Kathryn Rizzo said the study found it was some women’s approach to parenting that caused them problems.
The authors of the study, which has been published online in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, said: ‘If intensive mothering is related to so many negative mental health outcomes, why do women do it
‘They may think that it makes them better mothers, so they are willing to sacrifice their own mental health to enhance their children’s cognitive, social and emotional outcomes.
‘In reality, intensive parenting may have the opposite effect on children from what parents intend.’
Helicopter parents have been blamed for stopping their offspring enjoying childhood by scheduling hours of extra-curricular activities. Some even attend their child’s freshers’ week at university.
PREGNANT AGAIN, THE MUM HAPPILY HOVERING OVER A FAMILY OF ELEVEN CHILDREN
She already has 11 children in her brood and refuses to claim any extra benefits from the state.
So perhaps Tania Sullivan thought feeding one extra mouth wouldn’t make much difference – or she simply wanted a nice round dozen.
Because the married supermum has revealed that, only eight months after giving birth to twins, she is pregnant again.
Mrs Sullivan, 37, said: ‘Everybody was thrilled to find out another baby was on the way.’
Mrs Sullivan and husband Mike, 39, live on his joiner’s salary of 34,000, supported by tax credits and child benefit of around 617 a month.
She runs a successful website and has written two books about life with a larger family. The self-reliant mother also home-schools seven of the children.
Proud parents: Tania Sullivan and husband Mike with their 11-strong family at their hom in Hoo, Kent