This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Helicopter Parent Phenomenon: Examining the Effects of Strong Parental Attachment on the Transition of Millennial Emerging Adults from College to the Workplace




Riggsby-Gonzalez, Lyn

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Helicopter parents are recognized for meddling in all aspects of the academic, social, and professional lives of their children. As a result, these children may be hindered in the development of essential applied skills, i.e. transferable/soft skills for educational and career success. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of helicopter parenting on the development of transferable/soft skills necessary for career readiness and job preparation. A mixed methods approach was utilized for this study including a quantitative survey adapted from the Inventory of the Dimensions of Emerging Adulthood (IDEA) by Reifman, Arnett, and Coleman (2007) and parental involvement by Mitchell (2012), as well as transferable/soft skills identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (2015). The quantitative analysis for this study utilized both exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and analysis of variance (ANOVA). The qualitative portion of this study included sequential follow-up interviews with purposefully selected participants. A grounded theoretical approach using in-depth, semi-structured interviews for descriptive data collection and open, axial, and selective coding techniques for data analysis guided the qualitative methodology for this study. The participants for this study consisted of traditional-age college students (19-25 years) and parents. The initial survey phase of the study collected data from students (n=335). The secondary interview phase of the study included students (n=6) and parents (n=3). The EFA results revealed seven domains for emerging adulthood, which were labeled self-authorship, uncertainty, anxiety, individuation, accountability, positivity, and impulsiveness, as well as three domains for transferable/soft skills development, which were labeled emotional intelligence, information technology application, and professionalism. The ANOVAs revealed statistically significant results in relation to parental involvement for two domains of emerging adulthood (impulsiveness and accountability) and one domain related to transferable/soft skills (emotional intelligence). The majority of student participants (93%) self-reported a level of agreement (strongly agree to somewhat agree) with their core skills development. Further, 81% of student participants agreed they are experiencing the periods of emerging adulthood with the exception of feeling restricted, settling down, and responsibility for others. Most interestingly, student participants noted a preference for somewhat less involvement from parents during their time as a college student (¯X=2.42). During the qualitative interviews, participants noted the importance of the college experience including living away from home and peer socialization, as well as engagement in extracurricular activities and experiential education for transferable/soft skills development. The findings for this study are useful for college administrators for planning, policy development, and procedural improvement to better handle parental involvement, as well as for human resources professionals for managing the effects of parental presence in the workforce. Further, the findings are useful for students and parents in determining appropriate levels of parental involvement pertinent to students’ transferable/soft skills development for career success during the critical transition to the first-year in the workplace.