Is Overparenting Associated with Adolescent/Young Adult Emotional Functioning and Clinical Outcomes Following Concussion?

Alicia M Trbovich, Jonathan Preszler, Emami Kouros, Cohen Paul, Shawn Eagle, Michael W Collins, Anthony P Collins. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2021 June 16: Epub ahead of print.

Take-Home Message

Overparenting is associated with higher levels of anxiety and stress after concussion; however, athletes’ emotional distress scores are more strongly correlated to clinical concussion outcomes than overparenting. 


Following concussions, clinical outcomes can be influenced by pre-injury and situational factors (e.g., mental health, previous concussions, age, staying on-field after injury). “Helicopter parenting”, or overparenting, relates to increased child anti-depressant/anxiety medication use and a greater likelihood of psychiatric diagnoses.  It remains unclear if overparenting plays a role in concussion recovery among adolescents and young adults.

Study Goal

Trbovich and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study of adolescents/young adults and their parents to determine the relationship between overparenting and patient emotional distress on clinical outcomes (e.g., symptoms, neurocognitive function, recovery duration) after a concussion.  


The authors recruited 101 participants (14 to 24 years of age) within 30 days of a concussion. Each participant completed a series of emotional distress (i.e., depression, anxiety, and stress questionnaire) and clinical outcome measures (e.g., cognitive function, vestibular/ocular motor dysfunction, concussion symptoms) while symptomatic. Their parents completed a questionnaire to measure levels of overparenting.


Higher levels of overparenting correlated with higher levels of a patient’s anxiety and stress. Patients with higher emotional distress scores had worse clinical outcome scores, while overparenting did not influence clinical outcomes. 


Patients that had higher overparenting scores reported higher anxiety and stress after a concussion, which complements a prior study among young adult children without a concussion. Meanwhile, mental health concerns may have negative impacts on many concussion clinical measures, including neurocognitive function and symptoms reported on the Post-concussion symptom score and Vestibular Ocular Motor Screen. It would be valuable to see future studies follow a larger group of patients and children to see how overparenting and patient outcomes may change over time before and after a concussion and while the children grow up. Furthermore, it may be interesting to learn if overparenting influences patient management after a concussion.

Clinical Implications

Clinicians should screen for pre-injury and situational factors (e.g., mental health) during concussion recovery. Parenting style may be a factor to consider when assessing an adolescent or young adult patient.

Questions for Discussion

Have you considered parenting style when dealing with a younger athlete and post-concussion recovery? How are you measuring anxiety, depression, and stress after concussion in your athletes? If you aren’t measuring this, why not?

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Written by: Karlee Burns
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

Evidence-Based Assessment of Concussion Course - 5 EBP CEUs