Problematic internet use in emerging adulthood to escape from maternal helicopter parenting: defensive functioning as a mediating mechanism

Submitted: April 13, 2023
Accepted: September 29, 2023
Published: November 8, 2023
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The increasing use of the Internet has raised concerns about its problematic use, particularly among emerging adults who grew up in a highly digitalized world. Helicopter parenting, characterized by excessive involvement, overcontrol, and developmentally inappropriate behavior, has been identified as a potential factor contributing to problematic Internet use (PIU). Under these circumstances, considering that emerging adults navigate their adult lives and strive to reduce their sense of being in-between, implicit emotion regulation strategies, such as defense mechanisms, may help comprehend PIU. The present questionnaire-based study investigated the associations between maternal and paternal helicopter parenting and PIU through defensive functioning among a community sample of 401 cisgender emerging adults (71.82% females; 82.04% heterosexuals; Mage=24.85, SD=2.52) living in Italy. About one-fourth (25.19%) reported PIU. Greater maternal, B=0.904, SE=0.235, p<.001, but not paternal, B=0.343, SE=0.188, p=.068, helicopter parenting was significantly associated with PIU through a less mature defensive functioning. Conversely, neither maternal, B=1.158, SE=0.722, p=.109, nor paternal, B=0.355, SE=0.731, p=.628, helicopter parenting had a direct association with PIU. The results suggest the importance for psychotherapists to incorporate individuals’ defense mechanisms and parent–child relationship history when designing tailored interventions for effective treatment of PIU. This emphasis is crucial because, in the context of a developmentally appropriate parenting style, relying on more mature defenses after psychotherapeutic intervention can lead to healthier adjustment among emerging adults.

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How to Cite

Carone, N., Benzi, I. M. A., Muzi, L., Parolin, L. A. L., & Fontana, A. (2023). Problematic internet use in emerging adulthood to escape from maternal helicopter parenting: defensive functioning as a mediating mechanism. Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 26(3). https://doi.org/10.4081/ripppo.2023.693

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