Study: Parents have effect on mental health of college students

For some students, their parents stop telling them to eat their vegetables at a young age. For others, this continues through college.

A researcher at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia found college students who have overruling parents are more likely to feel depressed, less confident and anxious.

Holly Schiffrin, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Mary Washington, conducted the study after being contacted by her students’ parents about issues she would expect the student to address.

About 300 undergraduate students participated in the study.

One part of the study asked the participants to read statements online concerning their mothers’ parenting and indicate how much they related to it, such as, “My mother has a say in what major I choose,” “She monitors when I exercise” and “If I got a grade I thought was unfair, my mom would inform my professor.”

The answers were used to compute how the students felt about their relatedness, autonomy and competence, she said.

“Their parents will rush in and solve the (problem) for them,” Schiffrin said. “The way we develop new skills for solving problems is that you have to solve those problems (yourself).”

Schiffrin said the students were not asked if they live at home or not, but she said the school is a residential college.

Niki Kuzmowicz, a psychology and German junior, said her parents have given her independence since she was young, but they still check up on her to make sure she’s doing well. Kuzmowicz said over-controlling parents should back off when their child gets to college.

“College is supposed to be (about being) independent,” Kuzmowicz said. “It’s time to grow and go on your own.”

English visiting assistant professor Elizabeth Pellerito said she is not allowed to give a parent information on their child’s performance without the student’s consent because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. Pellerito said she has not faced a situation where a parent contacts her, but she has heard some of her colleagues have in the past.

“I would hope (all) faculty know about it (and) know rights and responsibilities,” she said
Pellerito said she takes precautions to avoid any issues.

“I try to make the expectations pretty clear so there are no surprises when they get their grades,” she said.

Schiffrin said she thinks some students might need the extra support from a parent.

“Parents that are involved at this level, I think they have good intentions, but I don’t know for sure,” she said. “They want their kids to be successful. Maybe (the parents) don’t realize it might be having the effect that it is.”

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