2023 Author: Anita Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-22 03:30
In April 2019, the McGill University He alth Center published a press release that reported an increase in the number of children and adolescents seen in the emergency department for suicide attempts or suicidal ideation.
According to the figures put forward by this survey – based on a sample of 300 emergency rooms and carried out between 2007 and 2015 – “the percentage of children exhibiting suicidal behavior increased by 60% […] and 43 % of pediatric patients […] were between five and 11 years old” (Burstein, Agostino, Greenfield (2019), Web page).
Although many specialists find consensus in the literature and describe hyperparents as toxic, it is absolutely necessary to determine whether this type of parenthood can be a real risk factor for suicidein children 11 and under.
Becoming a parent involves risks
When the child comes into the world, the parents are not automatically parents, in the sociological sense of the term. This is a role that is learned, acquired over time and which can be taken on by any adult who shares the child's daily life - we think for example of thefathers-in-law and mothers-in-law of reconstituted families.
“The use of the term parenthood therefore refers, in the psychological approach or in the sociological approach, to a discourse of risk. In psychological reading, the parent may become inappropriate through personal difficulties. In the sociological approach, the parent can be a risk factor for the child because of his social situation” (Sellenet, 2007, p.15). Whether by virtue of social pressures or requirements imposed by the environment in which the narcissistic parent evolves (the one who considers his child as an extension of his person), the desire to achieve a certain parental ideal can lead to abuses such as hyperparenting.
The omnipresence of parental presence conditioned by a social tangent
By considering the parent as a partner in the school education of children, their predominant presence in all spheres of their lives risks "eclipsing the child as such, in his specificities which are opposable both to public community than to his own parents” (Sellenet, 2007, p. 174). Through symmetrical two-way exchanges with the staff of institutions, parents are now able to intervene in all decisions. “Parents have very high educational expectations and do not control psychopedagogical practices and conceptions to the point” (Sellenet, 2007, p.174).
In modern society, it must be remembered, the child has become a social risk factor, because "by hisbehavior comes the risk of sanction in the name of failing parenting”. In order not to be stigmatized by others, parents adopt a so-called excessive type of parenting.
Gain skills faster than maturity
This quest for excellence pushes parents to over-invest in their children, in particular by over-stimulating language and learning to read very early on, which promotes dangerous precocity. “This apparent maturity is reinforced by the facility of language of the children […] and promotes distressing ideas (Sotto, Alain, 2018). This gap between children's language skills and their ability to properly integrate certain concepts often makes adults forget that young people are not their equals. “The little ones have more information in their heads, but they are giants with feet of clay. We must not neglect their affective and emotional development. Everything has to be in phase” (Sotto, Alain, 2018).
Anxious parent, overprotected child
Over the decades, several studies have been conducted to understand “the impact of the parent-child relationship on the emergence of anxiety and depression in young children” (Hudson, 2013, p.1). One of the main constructs to be studied is parental overprotectiveness.
Excessive parental involvement in the child's life, in a desire for overprotection, mimics the child's opportunities to cope with new situations. Consequently, he “…will be less able toget used to the threats perceived in these situations, to learn to identify the real threats in the context of novelty and to realize that he is able to manage difficult situations” (Hudson, 2013, p.1).
The paradox of overprotection
By preaching excessive caution, the dangers that await teenagers are of a different order. Intrinsically, young people need to take risks and test their limits to “separate themselves from their origins without breaking with them and experiencing themselves as an existing subject” (Kernier, 2009, p.200). When the fear of being engulfed by the alienating maternal object is too great, and adolescents experience a "deadly oppression of the object, self-attack can prove to be the last, paradoxical attempt to release it” (Kernier, 2009, p.193).
In situations of hyperparenthood “the risk of suicide can, therefore, constitute the ultimate way out of freeing oneself from the grip of the object and engaging in the adolescent transition. By wanting too much to eliminate the risks, in an excessive application of a precautionary principle similar to that which has emerged in recent years in the political and legal fields, we come up against much more devastating risk-taking on the part of adolescents” (Kernier, 2009, p.196).
Fear and deprivation of physical activity
“Parental concerns about safety in play also negatively affect the practice of physical activity in children andare generally exercised by avoiding activities that are outdoors or that require increased supervision” (Suen, Cerin and Wu, 2015, Web page). The hindrance of games considered dangerous not only affects children's self-confidence, but can also affect their mental he alth.
Indeed, “Physical activity plays a role in the prevention of certain common mental disorders […] and has been identified as a protective factor against depression and suicide” (INSPQ, 2015). Therefore, although it cannot be qualified as a determining factor, the obstruction of physical activity can be considered as an aggravating factor which exacerbates infantile morbid thoughts and acts.
In light of the information collected in a body of scientific articles, it is probably fair to say that hyperparenting can lead to self-destructive behavior in adolescents and young children. However, it is still an epiphenomenon and other determinants must be taken into account, such as lack of physical activity, mental he alth, social conditions and early learning.
“So far, research in this area has been conducted almost exclusively with mothers. Knowledge about the role of the father in the development of anxiety and depression in early childhood is limited” (Hudson, 2012, p.3). How to apply paternal hyperparenting and its consequenceswould be other avenues to explore in order to better understand the phenomenon.
Does hyperparenting have a gender? Are mothers and fathers equal in its applicability, and does its impact differ depending on which parent exercises this parenting style?