Link to Educarer HOME Grasping a Slippery Concept:

Series Introduction by:
Dr. David Bredehoft,
Dr. Jean Illsley Clarke  and  Dr. Connie Dawson

( See the overindulgence researchers' own website at )

What are the problems about understanding overindulgence? There are three.

  1. What is it exactly?
  2. Does it do any harm?
  3. Am I doing it?
What it is was defined by the participants in the first research study, (Study 1)1 124 adults willingly described the impact that being overindulged in a big way has had on their lives. They said: The distressing aftereffects of having been overindulged included pain they seldom talked about, not knowing what is enough, not knowing how to do things other people know how to do, and not knowing appropriate social behaviors.

Does overindulgence always do harm? That is one of the ways to identify overindulgence. If it does harm, it is overindulgence. If it provides abundance, it makes life better.

The answer to   Am I doing it?   is often embedded in recognizing the fine line between abundance and too much. The answer to the question is that we probably all do it at times. Not because we have ill intent, but because we want good things for our children and it is difficult to separate an abundance of good things from too much of a good thing. Therefore, it is very important that we avoid any feelings of guilt or shame as we recognize that we may have overindulged. We can remember that our actions came from a good heart and we can use our goodwill to encourage ourselves to move on and to give us hope.

What does overindulgence look like?

It is easy to observe overindulgence when it shows itself in too many toys or too many clothes, but the comparison of overindulged adults with non indulged in both Study 22 and Study 33 revealed three different areas of overindulgence.
  1. Too many things that money can buy. Too many clothes, too much equipment of all sorts, too many lessons, too much of anything that costs money.
  2. Also, too much over-nurturing, doing things for children that they should be doing for themselves, letting them stay in the center of the universe after age two.
  3. And, too soft structure, lax rules, not expecting or demanding that children do things for themselves or take other people's needs and wants into account.
The first article, What's in the Closet?: (Counting May Not Help), focuses on two of the indicators of overindulgence: We are also reminded that counting things is not always an accurate indicator of overindulgence -- that we need to look behind and beyond the count. This article is about too many things. There will be future articles about over-nurturing and soft structure.


  1. Study 1: "Perceptions Attributed by Adults to Parental Overindulgence During Childhood" has previously been reported in the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education Volume 16, No. 2, Fall/Winter, 1998, pp. 3-17 by David J. Bredehoft, Sheryll A. Mennicke, Alisa M. Potter and Jean Illsley Clarke, and in Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children (2nd Ed.) by Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson.
  2. Study 2: "Overindulgence, Personality and Family Interaction Among College Students"
        Data Collection:
    74 participants (43 female/31 male) at a midwestern private college during November 2000. Participants were recruited from psychology classes and given bonus points for their participation.
        Purpose of Study:
    The primary purpose of study 2 was to figure out what type of family dynamics, dysfunctional attitudes, self-esteem attitudes, and life distresses are related to being overindulged as a child.
  3. Study 3: "Overindulgence, Personality, Family Interaction and Parental Locus of Control"
        Data Collection:
    We collected data using a web-based questionnaire from 391 participants (348 who had children and 43 who did not) December 21, 2000 – April 2, 2001. We recruited our subjects in three ways: through the authors’ mailing lists, media sources, and by word of mouth.
        Purpose of Study:
    The primary purpose of study 3 was to figure out what type of family dynamics, dysfunctional attitudes, and parental beliefs are related to being overindulged as a child.
Series Introduction
Topic =
Too Many Things
Topic =
Topic =
Soft Structure
Topic =
Adult Pain
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