Teens With Controlling Parents Grow Up To Have Relationship Trouble, Study Finds

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Teens With Controlling Parents Grow Up To Have Relationship Trouble, Study Finds

Image by Evgenij Yulkin / Stocksy

We've all heard of "helicopter parents" and "tiger moms"—maybe you even experienced this parenting style firsthand as a teen.

In a new longitudinal study by researchers at the University of Virginia, the team wanted to know if there were any long-term effects of having psychologically controlling parents. And based on their findings, there seems to be a link between overbearing parents and having difficulty with social relationships later in life as an adult.

The effects of overly controlling parents.

The researchers gathered 184 people between the ages of 13 and 32 with a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and gathered information about their experiences of feeling controlled by their parents during adolescence. They were asked questions about their lives, such as what their parents were like and what they themselves were like, as well as questions about their relationship status and how much education they had attained.

The researchers also watched videos of each participant interacting with friends during childhood, plus videos of them with their romantic partners in the present day. Participants' peers were also asked some questions about whether the person was well-liked growing up, to gain an outside perspective.

According to their findings, by 15 to 16, teens with overly controlling parents displayed less psychological maturity and were reportedly less popular among their schoolmates.

By the age of 32, those people who'd grown up with overbearing parents were less likely to be in a relationship and tended to have lower educational attainment. Those who were in relationships by age 27 tended to have romantic relationships that were less supportive.

"Parents, educators, and clinicians should be aware of how parents' attempts to control teens may actually stunt their progress," Emily Loeb, one of the lead researchers behind the study, said in a news release. "This style of parenting likely creates more than a temporary setback for adolescent development because it interferes with the key task of developing autonomy at a critical period."

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Breaking the cycle.

It's important to understand the effects of overly controlling parents, both if you feel you may have grown up with parents like that, but also so as to not repeat the same behavior with children of your own.

Psychological control can look like invasive or overprotective parenting or being overly critical or shaming. But the good news is, there's a practice called inner child healing that can help you heal those deeply rooted wounds, so in the present day you can flourish.

And if you're a parent worried you may tend toward overbearing behavior, remember there's nothing wrong with setting boundaries with your child, but there's a way to do it that is helpful and not harmful, both in the short and long term.

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