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Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

Experts seem to agree the dominant factors influencing generational behaviors are parenting styles, economic environment, and technology.  In fact, studying this type of information can provide insight as to why various groups act as they do.

With that thought in mind, let’s briefly look at the five age categories frequently examined today and some common classifications associated with each demographic.

  • The Greatest Generation: Born 1900 to 1924.  These are the men and women who routinely garner the highest regard.  They are/were hardworking, loyal to employers, and considerate to elders.  They lived through a great depression, fought in WWII, and maintained a tendency to honor authority.
  • The Silent Generation: Born 1925 to 1945.  Gertrude Stein labeled this category The Lost Generation,as they worked hard, kept quiet, and were pressed between hero parents and rebellious children.  The group is somewhat small comparatively speaking, as economic decline and a world war had an impact on reproductive decisions.     
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964.  These folks were born after the war.  The Boom portion of the title comes from the explosive birth rates occurring during this period.  Economic environs were brighter than in aforementioned periods.  Boomers were afforded the luxury of attending college and felt at ease questioning authority, especially if an injustice was occurring.
  • Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976.  Silent-ers/Boomers had children when times were pretty good.  Because of this, their children tend to be well positioned.  A reasonable number of Gen X-ers have impressive academic training, feel comfortable creatively, are unafraid to embark on new ventures, and openly seek out flexibility in the work environment.
  • Generation Y (a.k.a., Millennials): Born 1977 to 1995.  Millennials grew up in a hi-tech era.  It’s easy to tell, as some gadget connecting them to a detached social sphere is commonly captivating their attention.  Their parents had a propensity to overstress accomplishments by repeatedly telling them how special they are.  Because of this, some came to embody the message and feel deserving of favored treatment almost anywhere they go.

As useful as overviews can be when seeking to understand generational differences, they can also lead to unfair stereotyping.  For example, most people would agree that rudeness should not be tolerated.  Still, when older generations suggest younger ones lack decorum, we might wish to examine the parenting methods of the previous generation or two to identify rearing processes that led to the alleged deficit.

Judgments can go both ways, though.  For example, some younger groups contend older ones occasionally display a sense of entitlement, especially when they anticipate things like preferred seating or proceeding through an open doorway before others.  Yet, we must keep in mind this kind of behavior was expected when seniors were growing up.  Actually, many were raised to believe that youngsters should defer to their elders out of respect.  After all, they demonstrated such politeness when they were young and now hope to be afforded the same courtesy.

In sum, it’s beneficial to examine the varied reasons why particular generations behave as they do, as it effectively builds a higher level of understanding, opens communication lines, and may perhaps result in stronger cross-generational relationships.  To learn more about this topic, go to www.people-press.org.

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