New research suggests that judgements about why people leave their children alone are responsible for ratcheting up our perception of the dangers of letting kids do things unsupervised.
Research from open-access journal Collabra shows our trend towards hover-parenting is all about moral superiority, not protecting kids.
The more surprising result was that perceptions of risk followed precisely the same pattern. Although the details of the cases were otherwise the same — that is, the age of the child, the duration and location of the unattended period, and so on — participants thought children were in significantly greater danger when the parent left to meet a lover than when the child was left alone unintentionally. The ratings for the other cases, once again, fell in between. In other words, participants' factual judgments of how much danger the child was in while the parent was away varied according to the extent of their moral outrage concerning the parent's reason for leaving.
Additional analyses suggested that it was indeed participants' judgment of the parent's immorality that drove up their assessments of risk. The authors sum up their findings like this: "People don't only think that leaving children alone is dangerous and therefore immoral. They also think it is immoral and therefore dangerous."