Parents’ expectations harm students’ self-esteem

WASHINGTON: Expectation of parents can harm self-esteem of college students and make it more difficult for them to adjust to their surroundings. However, a new University of Central Florida (UCF) study has found that students’ anxieties often are based on exaggerated perceptions of what their parents expect.

The problem, UCF psychologist Kimberly Renk said, is that many parents and students hold different perceptions of what the parents’ expectations are.

Students often are trying to meet goals far tougher than the ideals their parents have in mind. The study is based on a survey of 174 students and 230 of their parents. A separate study by Renk is among the first to examine how parenting styles remain a strong influence on how students adjust to college. Students reported making smoother transitions to college if they have at least one parent whose style combines warmth, a demanding nature and democracy — the same combination that is best for young children.

Renk, the mother of a kindergartner and an infant, directs UCF’s Understanding Children and Families laboratory, which seeks to better the lives of children and their families through research, clinical work and community service. She said parents’ influences on college students may be growing at a time when cell phones and other technology make it easier for students to stay connected with and rely on their parents.

“Many people still assume that parenting ends when a child turns 18, but in our culture today, there is a longer extension of adolescence,” Renk said. “Adulthood is starting later.”

Several studies by Renk and other researchers have shown the benefits of authoritative parenting for younger children.

These findings have been published online in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.