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I suspect it's the fact that "free-range parenting" is "a thing" rather than the default.



While there's some psychology (parental fear of abduction by strangers), there are also significant environmental problems at play in the US that don't exist elsewhere:

1. Kids are more spread out. A suburban neighborhood is huge and fewer people are having kids. The people that have kids will have fewer of them. For kids to coagulate together for playtime, you need higher density.

2. American roads are fucking deadly. Bigger cars at faster speeds with ever less attentive drivers. Cars are by far the number one killer of children and American voters do fuck all to fix it. If we banned all cars, I'd probably let my 2 year old mostly wander around by himself until dinner.

3. Dual working parents plus shitty workplace policies mean there are just fewer eyes out there. Even in the old days, "Free Range" didn't mean Lord of the Flies. It meant the kids roamed around but there was always an adult nearby, even if not in any official capacity.

A combination of 1, 2, and 3 makes for American parents structuring a kids' life around schleping them to various scheduled events and places. Even when a kid gets older, they've never developed the habits to do it for themselves.


Let me be clear - I'm not blaming American parents at all for this - as you point out it's a result of culture (although I'd say it worked 30y ago as well and you also had cars there). The thing is just if I can choose (and I can), I'd not move there with children.




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