Journal Entry 6 – Problem Statement, Purpose Significance, and Research Questions

Problem Statement

Well-meaning but overbearing parents who support and advocate for their university student’s success may actually impede the student’s resilience and ability to solve problems for themselves.

Purpose and Significance

My personal stake in this phenomenon is two-fold.  Firstly, as a new parent myself I sympathize with hovering parents and find it interesting that this issue has become so important.  My daughter is only two years old, and already I have experienced conflicting impulses about when to let go and let her make, and learn from, her own mistakes.  I have no doubt that as she grows older and her decisions become more consequential, that this impulse will only become more confusing for me.  Secondly, I regularly experience helicopter parenting first-hand from an administrator’s perspective.  As an administrator, I am mindful of my role as a university official and of the university’s view of students as adults, as well as the role of college in helping students develop emotionally and learn to solve their own problems.  And yet, I see instances where the university reinforces the parent-child connection; from considering parents when determining financial aid eligibility or in determine residence status for tuition purposes, to the parent sessions available during freshman orientation activities.

It concerns me that hovering parents are becoming so common, with one broad study indicating that 38% of first-year college students intervene “sometimes” or “frequently” in their child’s academic career  (“National Survey of Student Engagement,” 2007, p. 25), and yet there exists very little consensus about the impact it has on the student – or even what, precisely, the phenomena is.  To better define this problem, I will not just be looking at the impact of “parental involvement” as a broad phenomenon, but rather I will define it as suggested by Settle & Somers (2010), as an array of types: fairness, consumer advocate, safety patrol, vicarious college student, and toxic parent (p. 20).  Since the students are the axis on which hovering parents pivot, I will be conducting a study to analyze the phenomenon from the student perspective.

In better understanding the phenomena of helicopter parenting, university officials will be able to develop programs to meet the student need for community while fostering independence, while also leveraging those parents who still hover, to the advantage of the students, institution, administrators and faculty.  Once the problem is understood, clear boundaries may be set to specify what is and isn’t appropriate.  Equally, I hope to give a voice to the students who are experiencing the phenomenon and understand what it is they need and want from their community as it relates to their university education.  To put it succinctly, the purpose of this study is to understand and better define the phenomenon of helicopter parenting, understand the various consequences of parental hovering, and to find actionable data to promote student growth.

Research Questions

How do helicopter parents affect first-year university students?

A. What is the impact of helicopter parents on university student resilience?
B. How do helicopter parents affect a student’s transition to adulthood?
C. What aspects of helicopter parenting are most harmful or helpful to university students?

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