Is helicopter parenting responsible for the obsession with victimhood and demand for "safe spaces" on college campuses?
It is an intriguing idea and one put forward by adolescent psychiatrist Abilash Gopal in an article the Huffington Post. Dr. Gopal works with adolescents who have been "overparented" and have a sense of both victimhood and entitlement.
While college campuses are notoriously liberal and tolerant, students across the nation are holding sit-ins and hunger strikes claiming that they feel discriminated against. Gopal sees something similar in patients. One was a male college student he saw in weekly therapy:
He had been raised by a tolerant family in a liberal community that accepted him for being gay. However, in childhood he complained of feeling oppressed and often acted out in anger. His parents and mental health clinicians validated his perception of being discriminated against unquestioningly, even though there were no significant events or trauma to substantiate his beliefs.
During our sessions, this patient would express deep resentment for not being accepted. He claimed with outrage that on his college campus, “People might stare at me if I chose to wear a dress one day.” When I pointed out that he attended an extremely liberal college in the Bay Area, and that it was less likely that people would respond in an aggressive way if he wore a dress there, he could not be budged from his furious stance.
He was unable to believe that the world could ever be accepting towards him, and that made him bitter and isolated. He dropped out of school shortly thereafter, stating that he could not feel safe in such a hostile environment. He was unable to make progress in therapy and ended up quitting prematurely.
While Gopal believes that therapy can help many recover from unrealistic beliefs that they suffer from discrimination, the psychiatrist is nevertheless concerned about the number of young people who are demanding refuge from perceived slights that are not real. Gopal concludes with a sober observation:
It seems likely that many of the students at elite and liberal colleges who are complaining about the ways in which the world is keeping them down were once children raised by helicopter parents. The coddled child becomes the entitled teenager. The teen who expects his parents to fix his problems becomes the college student who demands that professors and administrators remove his obstacles.
If we continue to walk on eggshells to avoid offending these hypersensitive young adults, we are empowering their victimhood status. If we continue to indulge their irrational demands, we are robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to function independently in the real world. If we continue to overparent our kids, we are in danger of raising further generations of adolescents that are missing three key virtues of character: self-reliance, self-confidence, and resilience.