Eventually, children want some independence from their parents. Once grown, they desire physical and mental autonomy, but certain mothers and fathers feel the need to exert control long after it’s appropriate, necessary or conducive to mental health. One study focused on the well-being of children with overbearing parents.
This research, hosted by the University College London (UCL), tracked children born in the 1940s and followed up with them until the present day. More than 5,000 individuals participated and shared experiences about their upbringing. Those who dealt with invasion of privacy from parental figures and feelings of co-dependence noted decreased rates of happiness compared to their peers. Researchers likened the negative feelings of these subjects to those experiencing bereavement.
Mai Stafford, MSc, of the Medical Research Council’s Lifelong Health and Aging unit at UCL, said that “psychological control can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behavior.”
In contrast, healthy “parents give us a stable base from which to explore the world while warmth and responsiveness has been shown to promote social and emotional development,” Stafford stated.
She claims that this research wasn’t meant to blame parents but rather provide awareness of troubles facing families, including economic issues and other problems.
Behavioral control is through regulations, rules and other consistent, structured restrictions meant to limit autonomy of children. Psychological control exists through verbal interventions impacting the child’s self-perception, relationships and other aspects of his or her mental well-being.
Hollinger referred to Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., when listing the eight specific styles of controlling parents. They include:
Perfectionist – These parents push their kids to be the best in school, work and other avenues of life.
Depriving – “These parents exhibit control by withholding their love, affection, and/or support when they feel displeased with their child. This is a form of conditional love,” said Hollinger.
Dependent – Some parents want to remain overly-attached to their children and feed off of them, sabotaging attempts for their kids to become independent.
Chaotic – Certain mothers and fathers are inconsistent in their styles and communications to the detriment of their families.
Childlike – A role swap of caretaker and underling. The child may be persuaded to take care of his or her parent during times of financial and/or emotional need, Neuharth finds in some cases.
Abusive – Hurtful parents may emotionally and physically harm their children for a multitude of reasons, such as seeing them as threats or merely “objects” to control.
Smothering – Similar to dependent parents, these people fear being along and want to shower endless affection of their kids.
Ritualistic – The focus is on a regimented and regulated style of parenting. For example, parents may treat their offspring as soldiers to “whip into shape” instead of human beings needing empathy and support.