Date of Award

Fall 10-29-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Richard Blissett, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Reid, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Kuchar, Ed.D.


helicopter parent, overparent, overinvolved parent, higher education, news media, newspaper


Scholars and practitioners have differing views as well as definitions on overparenting at the college level, which has led to confusion in both the scholarly literature and news media coverage of the topic. The topic has become so popular in conversation that national news sources have covered it extensively, potentially influencing the priorities of policy makers and the formation of public opinion. Without a better understanding of the specific behavioral indicators of overparenting, it is unclear whether the phenomenon truly exists, and if so, what are its characteristics? Understanding how various groups in society have defined overparenting is an important part of undertaking policy analysis or action. The purpose of the current study was to analyze how national news sources have depicted overparenting within higher education. Drawing from media studies and the scholarly and higher education literature on parental involvement, the study was guided by one broad research question, “How do the media define the behaviors associated with parental overinvolvement in higher education?” A content analysis was conducted by analyzing news articles published from 2015 to 2020. Results suggested that controlling students, both psychologically and behaviorally, was the most common behavior exhibited by parents. The second most frequently identified behavior was that of parents communicating frequently with their children followed by parents communicating with higher education professionals regarding their children. A low percentage of news articles referred to providing emotional and financial support as overparenting behaviors. Moreover, when discussing parental overinvolvement in news articles, most of the stories are anecdotal and subjective as they are shared by parents, faculty, staff, and employees, and then retold through the context of the article. Because numerous labels are used to discuss overparenting, it is difficult to arrive at a comprehensive definition of overparenting. The current study contributes to the body of knowledge and extends the research by establishing a definition of overparenting as a foundation for further research and practical use both within and outside of education. Overall, overparenting at the college level seems to be defined as extremely involved parents engaging in codependent behaviors such as: solving problems for; making decisions for; frequently intervening on behalf of; trying to prevent harm and failure; and having constant communication, which dampen their children’s ability to figure things out on their own, learn self-reliance, and transition smoothly from adolescence to adulthood. This study may help higher education institutions to better understand overparenting, its importance for both faculty and students, and how to leverage overparenting in today’s parent-child-institution relationship. Implications of the key findings for policy making and future research are also discussed.