Intrusive parents are more likely to raise overly self-critical children, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) also found that such children were more likely to develop anxiety or depression.
The university’s psychology department conducted a five year study of children from ten different primary schools throughout the city-state. In the first year, parental intrusiveness was assessed. The seven year-old children were given a puzzle to solve within a certain time limit and the parents were told they could help when they believed it was necessary. The object of this was to see if the parents would get involved, regardless of their child’s ability level. Those who did were labelled ‘intrusive parents’.
During the next four years, the researchers conducted assessments of each child using reports from the parents and from the children themselves.
Unsurprisingly, the NUS team found that children whose parents were labelled intrusive were more likely to form the impression that what they did simply was not good enough.
Assistant professor Ryan Hong, the study’s lead author, said that this meant these children can “become afraid of making the slightest mistake and will blame himself or herself for not being ‘perfect’”.
Singapore has “a society that emphasises academic excellence” Hong explained, which can lead parents to place “unrealistically high expectations” on their children. Not only can “a sizeable segment of children … become fearful of making mistakes”, they can become “disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies”. These children are less likely to seek help when they really need it, he said.
Children should have “a conducive environment to learn” and part of this process “always involves making mistakes and learning from them”, Hong said. When parents start to intrude, they can “take away this conducive learning environment”.
Earlier this year, child development support group the Early Intervention Foundation published research which suggested that parents who frequently argue with each other can also have negative effects on their children’s lives and development.