David - I AM republican and it has nothin to do with this.
Nor does religion.
Nor does socio-economic status.
Nor does sexuality.
Parents have always done things to make their kids happy - nothing has changed there. There are many who still spank and many who are still emotionally distant from their kids. This doesn't make a difference in my point either.
This generation as a whole has at their fingertips such an amass of information and communication abilities, that they see what "everyone else is doing" and there are no longer any distance barriers in society. What was only present in very specific areas is now rampant thanks to technology and the child left to think on their own (reflecting - what ever happened to that??) is now consoled by 1,000s of Facebook friends who have done the same thing and tell them that it's okay. Parents aren't alone anymore - every discipline action is dissected by peers and discussed at parent teacher conferences.
As for my country - history has shown us that each generation responds to and is molded by industrialism/technology. There is a direct correlation between major strides in technology and a changing society as a whole. Maybe the differences yiu notice in foreign countries is due to their lack of advancement in comparison to the USA. I'm not saying that the places you mentioned are third world countries, but perhaps not as advanced as us.
And don't feel bad about the embrace - I'm not a hugger. I also really appreciate debate and discussion, so I'm grateful for those that don't necessarily agree with me. If we all were the same, then we might as well be north Korea.