April 30, 2014

Helicopter parents feel jealous when their kid is with another family

In a cocooning period, the social world shrinks from including genetic strangers ("peers," "the community") to only the nuclear family, or a proto-nuclear family ("a couple").

A single little nuclear family cannot provide for all of a person's social needs, or even a good chunk of them. It places unnecessary stress on each family member, who is expected to fulfill too many roles within the family, leading to cabin fever and an incestuous vibe around the house. Now you know where Norman Bates came from.

Earlier posts (such as this one) have explored the effects of the child's total social world being the family. When your parents provide most of your social interaction, you wind up brattier because you don't get as much honest feedback as you would from genetically unbiased people AKA your peers and other adults in the community.

And it undermines the parents' authority when they make the family the extent of the social sphere. You can't be hanging out with your kid one moment and then order him around the next. Friends cannot boss each other around, and authority figures do not casually hang out with their subordinates. You can pick one role or the other, and helicopter parents have chosen to abandon their authority and act as substitutes for the kid's peers.

They'd rather die than let Outside Influences undo all of their tireless parenting. That would be like leaving your carefully worked clay sculpture right out on the sidewalk before it had a chance to harden. Might as well hand it over to the dogs as a chew toy. This blank slate mindset is one obvious reason why they don't want their kids to spend any time with their peers.

But I've noticed that it goes further than that, to include jealousy. When they think about their kid spending dinner at another family's house, they obsess over all of that quality time that the kid is lavishing on an outside social unit. Lousy ungrateful traitor!

Especially if he chose to go over there by himself, not as part of a parent-orchestrated "play date." The parent feels like they've been ditched by a fairweather friend, or like a jilted lover who's been stood up.

In the good old days, parents didn't feel jealous but joyous if their kid was invited over for dinner, a movie, a round of mini-golf, a sleepover, or whatever. "Great, my kid's making friends and becoming part of the larger community!" Their worst fear was that their kid would be a social loner, headed down the path of solitary vice (drugs, heavy metal music, cult membership, suicide).

Grown-ups back then viewed other grown-ups as their social circle, and expected their kids to interact mostly with their own age-mates. Peers and the community, rather than the family, was the primary social unit, so their kid spending time at another family's home was not a loss or a fragmentation but a gain, a solidification.

Aside from breaking apart the bonds of community, helicopter parents have also injected a creepy incestuous vibe into family social life. And you know what they say about a woman scorned. That only traps the children more tightly from the outside world.

The last time around, in the mid-to-late 1950s, the only way out for young people was to disobey their parents and hang out with each other in public against the parents' wishes. And it wasn't the end of the world.

Naturally with all those people out and about, mostly as potential targets, the crime rate began rising until just after folks started cocooning circa 1990. But we just have to take the good with the bad. The surest way to eliminate crime is to cut ourselves off from one another and hide away for good in private bunkers. The early '90s was as bad as crime got, and that wasn't the end of the world either.


  1. you make some excellent observations

    but one of the other causes of our cocooning times has been drop in birth rates, which resulted in a much older population in 2010 than in 1990. Older people cocoon. Also the children in the 50s and 60s had younger parents than children born after 1980 and less siblings.

    while the rise in cocooning has helped push the crime rate down, so has the aging of the population and the record percentage of people in prison today.

    I believe the rise in cocooning was the result of a combination of factors. The rise of cable TV, the increase in college educated people, the reduced birth rate and increased immigration.

    people were more outgoing in the 70s and 80s, because there were more young people and most people shared a common culture. Everyone grew up watching the same TV, listening to the same music and most young people in the 70s and 80s had grandparents born in America. it was far easier to socialize with strangers in the 80s, since we had more in common culturally than those who grew up after 1990.

    This started to change in the 90s, as young people more and more young people were raised by immigrant parents or were immigrants themselves. There were less young people and even less "American" young people, as the number of immigrants started to effect this generation. in 1990 10% of people were born outside America verse 4% in 1970 (the record low)

    by 2000 the amount of young people born outside America was 20%.
    also significant is where the foreign born were born, as shown below

    1980 2010
    1. Mexico - Mexico
    2. Germany - China
    3. Canada - India
    4. Italy - Philippines
    5. Britain - Vietnam

    not only do we have triple the immigrants, we no longer have immigrants from western nations which share our culture. This results in a less common culture, more fragmentation, less interaction, more cocooning.

  2. I can't believe the 4/10/20% figures. It seems I know hardly anyone not born in the US that lives here. That applies to my girlfriend's parents now but before that, no one in my immediate social circle.

  3. Older people cocoon.

    This on language use by older people is instructive - http://conversations.marketing-partners.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Word-topics-age_journal.pone_.0073791.g005.png


    Older people are much more people loving. You can see they use collective pronouns much more, talk about family and friends much more, use more positive emotions.

    These language trends don't seem to show any kind of Silents, Boomers, Gen X, Millenials oscillations, just seem to be more or less linear. It seems like, whatever age you are, younger people are more bratty.

    But older people are also, ancedotally, less interested in various exciting forms of socialising like parties, drinking, etc, and are probably less interested in new people compared to long standing families and friends. So some of this may tie to the sociability/violence cycle.

  4. "Now you know where Norman Bates came from."
    He's a fictional character who came from the mind of Robert Bloch. But Ed Gein was real.

    FWG: That's the law of small numbers for you. I've lived with foreigners for years, and worked with them at pretty much every job.

  5. Robert the Wise5/1/14, 4:57 AM

    Calvin Thomas Beck was the real-life inspiration for Norman Bates.

    Robert Bloch denied the Ed Gein connection.


  6. TGGP: Yeah, I know...I've always lived in "flyover country," so that probably influences my experiences as well. Growing up in the South, I still can't believe there are more Hispanics than blacks. There's no way. LOL.

  7. Interesting link, Robert, but that claims it was both Gein and Beck. And Bloch is not on the record denying the connection. The page cites "Once Around the Bloch" for him saying he knew little of the details, particularly about Gein as a person, but in the same book he says Gein was the inspiration (though the character of Norman Bates is his own invention), not surprising since he lived just 40 miles away. He even wrote "The Shambles of Ed Gein" after "Psycho".

  8. It all started with air-conditioning.


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