For the snowflake generation, the coddling does not end at high school graduation. Helicopter parents not only continue to hover once their children go to college, but some are now continuing to intervene on their behalf all the way through graduate school, and the consequences for the coddled and society are proving disastrous.
The New York Post reports that college professors and even presidents have received phone calls from concerned parents requesting special treatment and more, with some even going so far as to impersonate their young adult children. One administrator at a northeast liberal arts college complained, "Over the last two or three years it's become unbearable. I've had parents calling up and impersonating their children, asking questions that could have been easily asked by their kids. One lady didn't even bother to disguise her Long Island soccer-mom voice." Lest anyone write off the Post's report as tabloid sensationalism, Psychology Today and the Chronicle of Higher Education portray the phenomenon with even more outlandish examples, including parents of 25-year-olds calling graduate school admissions officers to expound upon the virtues of their children.
Few studies have yet examined the effects of over-parenting as it is a relatively recent cultural phenomenon — the term "helicopter parenting" was coined only in 1990 — but early research does not portend well for helicoptered children. These studies suggest that anxiety-driven parenting tactics not only suppress children's maturity and autonomy but also constitute "parental conditional regard," in which affection is withdrawn when children do not succeed. This tactic then instills in children an aversion to criticism that impedes personal growth and poisons relationships with others.
Jonathan Gibralter, president of Wells College in New York, relates to the Post, "A mother called and asked for permission to do her daughter's internship for her because [the girl] had too much anxiety. I said, 'It sounds to me that this would be a fun and interesting experience for you, but I don't think your daughter is going to get any credit for it.'" The common thread among all of these stories is not merely parental absurdity or childish self-indulgence but rather anxiety, real or imagined.
The New York Times Magazine on Wednesday published an 1,800-word article asking, "Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety?" Over the past decade, anxiety has become the single most common reason undergraduates seek psychological counseling. The American College Health association found a 24% increase of college students reporting "overwhelming anxiety." During this same decade, hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers have doubled. One student interviewed by the Times explained that he often thought that if he failed a quiz at school, "then I'll get a bad grade in the class, I won't be able to get into the college I want, I won't get a good job, and I'll be a total failure."
Chris Segrin, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who studies over-parenting, explains, "Narcissism and entitlement are bedfellows; they just go hand in hand. These parents are generating a child who really sees him or herself as the center of the universe. Being catered to becomes a norm for these children. They are raising kids with low self-efficacy and high entitlement, which is a near lethal combination of personality traits." One need look no further for evidence of Segrin's theory than Yale's "Shrieking Girl" Jerelyn Luther, whose self-absorbed tears typify a culture of decadence.