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Parental Attachment Styles and Traditional Undergraduates’ Adjustment to College: Testing the "Helicopter Parent" Phenomenon

24 July 2009


Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to investigate college student perceptions of attachment styles to parents and peers and the influence these attachment styles have on adaptation to college and academic achievement. In addition, other non-cognitive factors of college student adjustment were investigated. Student participants completed the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment and the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire. Unrelated parent participants participated in a focus group to answer questions about their experience of their students’ transition to college and their relationship with their college student. Quantitative results indicated no direct relationship between GPA and attachment, though attachment to the father/male guardian was found to account for 43% of the variability in student adjustment when GPA is held constant. Several themes emerged from the qualitative data including, maintained closeness, rough transition to college, replete communication, changed relationship as the student matures, and parental involvement at healthy levels. Overall findings indicated parental over-involvement, or being a “helicopter parent” was not found to correlate with college adjustment or high GPA while a moderate level of parental involvement, especially on the part of the father/male guardian is very helpful for college students.


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