What Happens When Overprotected Children Grow Up

Did you know that being overprotective of your child can do more harm than good? Read on to find out how overprotection can adversely affect your child as he grows up.

By Amrita Gracias

What Happens When Overprotected Children Grow Up

As parents, we always want the best for our children. We want them to be happy and shelter them from the harsh realities of the outside world. But, in this endeavour, some of us go overboard and become overprotective, which does our children more harm than good. And, these adverse effects carry on not just into adolescence but also into adulthood.

Why some parents are overprotective

Parents, in general, are concerned about the safety of their children. At the same time, most parents also have faith in their child’s ability to cope with age-appropriate challenges. However, there are some parents, who feel that it is their duty to protect their child from all the dangers and challenges, and hardships and disappointments. Such parents turn overprotective, and tend to constantly monitor their child and take control of his life.

Common signs of overprotective parents

  • Do not give the child autonomy, keeping her under tight control.
  • Make the child dependent by doing everything for her.
  • Are always fearful that something unpleasant may happen to the child, and transfer these fears to the child.
  • Hold on to the child well into her adulthood to satisfy their own emotional needs.

Signs of overprotected children

  • Are overly dependent on parents
  • Suffer from low confidence and self-esteem
  • Do not know how to face challenges, hardships or conflict
  • Unable to think independently or make decisions on their own
  • Reluctant to take up responsibility and own up failure

What happens when an overprotected child grows up?

Studies have shown that overprotection is more detrimental than beneficial to a child, leading to unfavourable effects on his cognitive and social–emotional skills.

Let us look at how an overprotective parenting style affects the child as he moves into adolescence and then into adulthood.

Overprotected teen vs other adolescents

  • Cognitive skills: A child begins to assert his independence as he enters adolescence. During teenage, the brain undergoes several changes and teens work towards establishing their own identities. But, an overprotective parent doesn’t allow his adolescent to create his own space due to fear of losing control over the child. The parent continues to foster dependency and, in the process, keeps the child away from having any significant learning experiences. Keeping the teen confined within a narrow boundary clouds his thinking and reasoning abilities, and prevents him from developing into a mature, responsible and resourceful individual.
  • Social–emotional skills: The overprotected teen lacks confidence and has low self-esteem. He believes that he is incapable of being independent and standing up for himself. As a result, the child becomes an easy target for bullies. Moreover, overprotective parents do not allow their teen to develop the bonds of friendship, which is an integral part of teenage life. Therefore, the child lacks good social life and seeks gratification of social relationships from his parents, thus making him even more dependent on them. However, there is also a chance for an overprotected teen to rebel against the restrictions imposed on him. Since the child longs for independence, he begins to test boundaries. This may lead to the child picking up some risky behaviours such as abusing alcohol or drugs.

Overprotected young adult vs her peers

  • Cognitive skills: A young adult who is overprotected lacks the sense of responsibility and continues to remain dependent on her parents. If she does need to move away and live independently, she finds it extremely hard to cope with such a life as she doesn’t possess the necessary life skills. Since she is used to being cared for by her parents, she finds herself to be a misfit among her more independent peers. Her low confidence levels suppresses her thinking and prevents her from applying her skills as she doubts her own abilities. She also holds back from expressing herself or sharing her creative abilities due to the fear of being judged.
  • Social–emotional skills: She is easily frustrated and struggles to deal with challenges relating to academics, work or relationships. As she continues to remain dependent, she is emotionally weak and finds it hard to relate to her peers. If her parents are unable to shelter her, she is unsure how to proceed ahead in life, as she hasn’t learnt to face challenges or hardships. She is oversensitive and avoids taking any risks as she fears failure. Studies also show that the overprotected individuals are at a greater risk of suffering from anxiety disorders in adulthood as they are always stressed owing to their various fears.

Overprotected adult vs other adults

  • Cognitive skills: Even in late adulthood, an overprotected individual continues to find it hard to take responsibility for his actions. For, he has grown up believing that he is never at fault. His career suffers, as he is incapable of independent thinking, problem-solving or decision-making. He is unable to accept constructive criticism and tends to interpret situations negatively. Besides, he lacks the drive to move forward in his career due to his low confidence. A non-performer at work, he moves from one job to another as he is unable to face the challenges of his job.
  • Social–emotional skills: Owing to his emotional instability, he lacks social competence and relationship skills. A sense of overdependence makes him look out for someone to depend on. In a relationship, he is likely to remain passive and allow himself to be dominated by his partner. He might even stay in an abusive relationship as he fears he would lose the person he is dependent on. As a parent, the overdependent individual could also turn out to be overprotective of his children or may grant them excessive freedom.

While it is normal for parents to be concerned about their children, we must understand that a fine line that divides protection from overprotection. There is no harm in allowing our children to learn from their mistakes and face challenges that life throws their way.

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