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Education Study: Parental Involvement Enriches College Experience

Parents with a tendency to hover and get too involved in their child's life are frequently referred to as 'helicopter parents'. The term is rarely used in a complimentary context.

ABC News, Wall Street Journal, and several other news publications have produced features on helicopter parents and the dangers they pose to their children's ability to be self-reliant.

Much of the coverage has been mere speculation. There has been no hard research done to determine what kind of effect parental involvement has on a student's college experience. Until now.

2007 National Survey of Student Engagement

The annual National Survey of Student Engagement collected data from students at 24 colleges and universities in 2007. According to the survey, parents are more involved in their college student's life than ever before. More than 80 percent of parents report being more involved than their own parents were.

Percentage of Students Who Had Frequent Contact with Parents

Support Network In-Person Contact Electronic Contact
Mother 62% 86%
Father 54% 71%
Guardian 55% 71%

Source: 2007 National Survey of Student Engagement: First-Year Students

Interestingly, the survey found that parental involvement may actually be an enriching experience. Students who are in frequent contact with their parents were found to have a more satisfying college experience. The same was true of students whose parents frequently contact college officials on their behalf.

'Compared with their counterparts, children of helicopter parents were more satisfied with every aspect of their college experience, gained more in such areas as writing and critical thinking, and were more likely to talk with faculty and peers about substantive topics,' said George Kuh, survey director.

There can be such a thing as too much contact, though. The survey also found that students with 'hyper-involved' parents had substantially lower grades, implying that overboard involvement has the potential to inhibit academic performance.

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