Reader e-mail that reinforces the point:
Derb — … you have your dates wrong I think. … I’m 42. My friends are all around the same age. This is a topic that comes up often. We look at our kids and see they live a vastly different life than we lived at their ages. We are vastly different parents. Our fathers never would have done the things we do. Honestly, we don’t much enjoy them but feel it is required.
I think this child raising fetish crept in during the 80′s and came to full bloom in the 90′s. The one caveat here is all of my friends fit a specific demographic. We are all white males. We grew up in working class families. We also grew up outside of urban and suburban areas. My house as a kid was not exactly in a rural area, but it was certainly not a suburban development or the city.
Over the weekend, I was with the guys out in the woods for some drinking and card playing. I bet this topic or some variant of it constituted 50 percent of the conversation. We have avoided the worst excesses of the modern parenting racket, but no one can avoid it [altogether]. The idea of sending the kids out to play unsupervised is so alien now, you run afoul of the law if you do it.
[Me] Worldwide, the most dramatic declines in fertility are in populations that historically favored high parental investment in child-raising — East Asia, North Europe. This tells you something in itself. The hypothesis here would be that in a population of traditionally high levels of parental investment, modernity’s upward pressure to yet higher levels just breaks the camel’s back. Young urban people in China seem to have very little interest in child-raising at all, from my experience (admittedly mostly hearsay and anecdotal).