Every young child needs a great deal of care, attention, and “mothering,” and every older child needs help and guidance in meeting the situations of life. The overprotective parent, however, goes too far and turns care into coddling and guidance into domination. She (it is usually but not always the mother) hovers over the child, tries to anticipate his every need, and guards him against every risk. She constantly worries about his health, showers him with excessive physical affection, and becomes over-solicitous at his slightest injury or discomfort. No other interest is allowed to compete with her concern for the child.The effects of overprotectiveness are clear. The child fails to develop independence because he can never venture out on his own. He becomes timid because he is constantly warned against danger and is permitted to associate only with the quietest and gentlest children. He becomes uncertain and apprehensive because he has not learned to cope with the most ordinary obstacles. And all these characteristics together make it difficult for him to adjust to everyday situations and be accepted by his peers.Overprotection and overindulgence frequently go together. The parents not only shower the child with care, but with gifts and privileges as well. This combination is particularly devastating, since it not only prevents him from learning to think and act for himself, but encourages him to believe that everything will come his way as a matter of course. Such children are likely to lack emotional control, to be oversensitive to criticism, and to have a low frustration tolerance. They are also afraid of growing up and making their own way in life. In school they usually make extra bids for attention, show little sense of responsibility, and tend to be selfish, spoiled, and socially immature.Overprotective attitudes arise from many causes. Mothers shower their children with excessive care and attention because they are uncertain and inexperienced, overanxious due to the miscarriage or death of another infant, or unhappy and sexually dissatisfied in their marriages. They may also become overprotective because their child has had a severe illness or suffers from a handicap, because they themselves were emotionally impoverished early in life, or simply because they have a domineering personality. There is also considerable evidence that many parents become overprotective and over- indulgent in order to conceal or compensate for feelings of rejection and hostility toward the child. These parents give their children physical care and material advantages in place of genuine affection.Illustrative Case: (Male, 8 years). Excessive Contact: When he was an infant, mother could never leave him for an instant. When he was two years old, she had moods of despondency because she could not get away from him. She feels worried and unhappy when patient is out of her sight. Has been sleeping with him the past six months because he has called her. Lies down with him at night. Extra nursing care has been required because of his frequent colds. Mother says they are attached like Siamese twins.Prolongation of Infantile Care: Mother dresses him every day (age 8), takes him to school every morning and calls for him every afternoon. When at school in the morning she pays the waiter for his lunch and tells waiter what to give him. Breast-fed 13 months. Mother fed him the first five years. Mother still goes to the bathroom with him and waits for him. Mother insists on holding his hand when they walk together. Resents his walking alone. . . .Prevention of Independent Character: The mother changed the patient to another school because the walk there was a little shorter. She never allowed him to play with other children because they were rough, until age 8. He is now allowed to play with boys in front of the father’s store. Mother hired an older boy to accompany him to school because he complained that the boys molested him.Maternal Control: Anxious, obedient child. Accepts mother’s domination. Accepts mother’s infantile methods of discipline without protest. Mother’s “slightest disapproval” is very effective in making him mind. He wants to do exactly what the mother does, helps her with the housework, and is over- responsive to her approval or disapproval. (Levy, 1938).

Cite this page: Nugent, Pam M.S., "OVERPROTECTION (“Momlsm”)," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/overprotection-momlsm/ (accessed January 20, 2019).