April 14, 2016
Sociologist Laura T. Hamilton Examines the Effects of “Helicopter” Parenting on Students and Institutions
BERKELEY, CA, April 14, 2016 – Laura T. Hamilton, author of a groundbreaking new book, Parenting to a Degree: How Family Matters for College and Beyond, will present a talk on April 18th, at Berkeley, on the effects of “helicopter” parenting on students and the universities they are attending.
Involved college parents, frequently referred to as “helicopters”, are often derided as pesky interlopers who micromanage their children’s lives and make excessive demands on school decision-makers.  An entire generation of supposedly coddled and entitled youth is considered the byproduct of this problematic behavior.  
But do involved college parents damage their children and burden universities?” To answer this question, Hamilton, Associate Professor of Sociology at UC Merced, followed the families of 41 young women as they moved through a public flagship university.  She interviewed the women every year for five years, asking about parental relationships and support, and interviewed their mothers and fathers, as the women neared graduation, to determine the roles parents play during the college years.  
Based on her studies, Hamilton will argue that intensive parenting is the logical response to the harsh risks facing young people during college and early adulthood.  Contrary to negative media portrayals of “helicopter” parents, Hamilton found that successfully navigating a public flagship university without involved parents is nearly impossible.  Moreover, universities actually seek to recruit, rather than evade, parents to whom they can outsource a wide array of tasks, with intended and unintended consequences.  
Hamilton’s new book, Parenting to a Degree: How Family Matters for College and Beyond, illuminates the parenting approaches of parents from all walks of life and identifies varying forms of parental involvement:    
“Some are intensively involved and hold adulthood at bay to cultivate specific traits: professional helicopters, for instance, help develop the skills and credentials that will advance their daughters’ careers, while pink helicopters emphasize appearance, charm, and social ties in the hopes that women will secure a wealthy mate. In sharp contrast, bystander parents, whose influence is often limited by economic concerns, are relegated to the sidelines of their daughter’s lives. Finally, paramedic parents, who can come from a wide range of class backgrounds, sit in the middle, intervening in emergencies but otherwise valuing self-sufficiency above all.”
Involved college parents are highly desired by universities, as they solve institutional problems posed, in part, by privatization process.  As public funds dwindle and accountability pressures mount, institutions are looking elsewhere for support.  Unfortunately, not all parents can play this role.  
In her talk, Hamilton will offer insights into the new, and sometimes problematic, relationship between students, parents, and universities. 
Carol Christ, Director at Center for Studies in Higher Education, will moderate the discussion. 
Sponsored by: The Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley and the Social Science Matrix, UC Berkeley, on the 8th Floor Barrows Hall, Monday, April 18th, from 12:00pm-1:30pm. Lunch will be served following the presentation. 
Laura T. Hamilton is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced. Broadly, her interests include gender, sexuality, family, education, social class, and mixed research methods. Hamilton earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University in 2003 and 2010, respectively, and her B.A. in sociology from DePauw University in 2001.
Carol Christ, is the Director, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley; former President, Smith College; and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, UC Berkeley.
Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) was established in 1956 and was the first research institute in the United States devoted to the study of systems, institutions, and processes of higher education.  The Center’s mission is to produce and support multi-disciplinary scholarly perspectives on strategic issues in higher education, to conduct relevant policy research, to promote the development of a community of scholars and policymakers engaged in policy-oriented discussion, and to serve the public as a resource on higher education.