Sam (l33tminion) wrote in peak_oil,

Post-Peak Parenting

In the past few years, I've read a few books that discuss modern American middle-class parenting:

Leanore Skenazy's Free Range Kids suggests that middle-class American parents are going crazy with worry in a media environment that exaggerates the risks posed to children by crime or accident. (The sole risk that gets understated is the danger of automobile accidents to children as passengers.) She suggests that parents calm down, try to get their perception of risk in line with reality instead of cable TV, and remember the benefits of children being able to do things on their own.

Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids notes that middle-class American parents favor methods of parenting that take a lot of time, money, and labor, but that the same parents overestimate the effects of their parenting methods. In addition, people focus on the short-term, so they over-focus on the drawbacks of having young children and under-focus on the benefits of having adult children and grandchildren. Thus, they might be making the wrong trade-offs when deciding between expensive, difficult parenting methods and few or no kids versus cheaper, lazier parenting methods while having more kids.

Jennifer Senior's All Joy and No Fun describes some rather dramatic changes that have occurred in the last two to three generations in the attitudes that middle-class Americans have towards parenting, and the effect of that on the experience of parenthood. This book is more a work of sociology than an argumentative essay, so it doesn't really give much in the way of advice.

All of these books suggest that something has gotten really weird about American middle-class parenting in the last 70 years or so. (It's not just America, either.) That time-frame isn't a coincidence. Parents raising their children a commute away from everything, families increasingly living places where children can't get anywhere by themselves because you need to drive to get anywhere, towns being organized in ways that make them more convenient for cars at the expense of the comfort and safety of pedestrians, and (early on) lots of opportunities for upward mobility (followed now by pervasive threats of downward mobility), all of these are factors that pushed the concerted cultivation model of parenting. And all of those factors were shaped by the oil boom and subsequent peak.

So here's what I'm wondering: Is there any good writing on the impact of peak oil on parenting specifically?

The books I mention describe a dysfunctional situation, and give some advice for mitigating that situation. But they miss something about the underlying causes, and they don't do much to anticipate any sort of future change. Is there any good writing that describes the experience of raising children during an economic contraction? Or speculates about the effect of peak oil on families? So far what I've got in terms of advice is something like, "Read The Upside of Down (or maybe The Up Side of Down) and try not to stress out too much."

(Stuff about places outside of America and socioeconomic groups outside of the middle-class would be interesting as well. I recognize that this is a bias in my reading, but it's where I live.)
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