Hello fellow sociology graduate. I would argue that independence and self-reliance have slightly become outmoded. Independence was an ideal that has lived on since the birth of the USA. However, independence and social relations are strictly contradictory. You cannot have a society made up of people who are entirely independent. Game theory has shown that people perform best when they are actually working in a cooperative nature.
Even when the USA was being colonized, the people were more communal than they are now. In the novel, Sugar Creek: Life on the Illinois Prairie, there is an excellent account of the transformation from communal life to individualism. At first, citizens shared everything and did not even use money; society was built on trust. Afterwards, when industrialization reared its ugly head around, the citizens began to slowly transform into independent people who had commercialism at their core.
However, I suppose we have been becoming slightly more dependent over the last few decades. This is because the Reagan administration worked away at reducing the middle class and because of the recent recession that surely put a lot of those in the middle class in debt. Also, the price of college has risen over 200% over the last five years. With people in debt and incapable of finding jobs due to the recession, the middle class has deteriorated. Even so, the share of wealth has become more and more so centralized in the top 1%.
With all of these conditions, people have needed to become more dependent on one another. Rent prices are steeply rising and thus people need to live with more and more family in tighter spaces. Unlike the majority of European countries, the USA does not have free childcare; as a result, mothers are tending to leave their children with grandparents and other family in order to work. These days, in order to have a comfortable living, both husband and wife need to work jobs. Women are now expected to work jobs. So, the increased need in child care has forced many people to stay in their community and become more family-oriented and thus less independent. Also, the increase in debt, loss of jobs, and rent have all worked in favor of dependence.
The social conditions are forcing us to become dependent; we have not become lazy or unmotivated. We simply do not possess the tools or life choices that allow us to stay independent. Most people who are unemployed are not unemployed by choice.