Regarding the OP, yes, I think I know what you mean? Children are growing up in a very different environment these days. When I was young my parents were able to smack me (although that very rarely happened, the idea of being smacked was always enough to keep me in line). And I was also able to play on park play equipment and inevitably hurt myself, cos that's what kids 25 years ago did. Nowadays though, parents can't smack their kids and children know it. Play equipment has everything but cotton wool these days, as local councils are (rightly) covering their arses against litigation. It's bloody ridiculous! Kids have no respect for authority because there *is* none anymore.
Hey you kids, get offa mah lawn!!
I would say that some evidence is required to show some distribution of children's "respect for authority" by the environment they grew up in, and how it correlates to "family values", whatever that means. If we toss out too much anecdotal noise, we will be unable to agree on what may or may not be happening.
I know that many people feel that kids are now protected by a new culture that won't tolerate the same level of discipline than in the past. But if you think about it, why wouldn't humans want to evolve towards better treatment for our children? Why wouldn't we want to improve the safety of playground equipment? Why would we want it to be OK to "smack" our children when we don't like their behavior?
It needs to be said that children having respect for authority is more than just being subjected to the whims of an adult, and especially parents who feel the need to use physical force in an attempt to modify behavior. Despite what many adults say about how they "turned out fine" after being physically hit, spanked, and smacked by their parents, it is inevitably a violent and largely unnecessary method that we should strive to remove. I mean, what parent plans to use spanking and smacking? I would say none do, rather, they react to a situation by using the only thing left - physical power that the child is defenseless against.
The respect that many people would like us to think is gone, may in fact be gone because adults who mistreat children do not deserve any respect. And sadly, the mind of a young child is certainly not mature enough to distinguish between love and respect for their parent when physical violence is used against them. It may well be sending a clear message that people who love them, hit them. What a lovely idea to embed in the mind of a toddler.
On the issue of family values being properly defined, I certainly agree that the way the term is thrown around, we can hardly take it seriously until we can all agree that the very subjective idea has some common ground, and leaves room for the diverse ways that families work together in modern times to make the best of the time they spend together.