Roll back the clock about 40 years and 74% of young people said there
was a generation gap between themselves and their parents. Of course
if you are a Baby Boomer, you recall growing up in war and recession.
It’s not surprising then that 79% of Generation Y, according to a
Research Center report, today acknowledge a generation gap, the
highest level ever recorded. The parallels between the late 1960s and
today are uncanny — two wars and a recession. You’d expect the tension
between young adults and parents to be paralyzing. Surprisingly, you
would be dead wrong.
The members of this Gen Y generation, ages 10 to 30, are BFFs
(best-friends-forever) with their parents. It is reported that college
students typically check in with their parents about 10 times a week. If
you speak with some parents and young adults, it’s even more often than
that. Kids and parents dress alike, friend each other on Facebook,
listen to the same music and fight less than previous generations. Gen Y
even assert that older people’s moral values are generally superior to
Like every preceding generation, Gen Y is a product of their parents.
But unlike their Boomer parents who were raised to believe that second
place was first place for losers, Gen Y were raised to believe that
everyone who plays is a winner. For the record, born between 1980 and
2000, these “trophy kids,”
also known as Millennials, have been coddled by their parents and
nurtured with a strong sense of entitlement. Their anxious parents were
afraid of their children growing up with an inferiority complex. In
games, it was common for everyone to receive a trophy — win or lose —
thus the name “trophy kids.”
Kids no longer fear the bad report card either — teachers do. This
generation was treated so delicately that many schoolteachers stopped
grading papers and tests in harsh-looking red ink to avoid bruising the
child’s precious self-esteem.
If the bond between parents and children is so strong, why does
nearly 8 out of 10 Gen Y believe there is a gap? It is in their use of
technology where Gen Y sees the greatest difference, starting perhaps
with the fact that 83% of them sleep with their cell phones. It is also
this technology that young people believe can be leveraged to build
community. They think technology unites people rather than isolates
them. Technology is a means of connection, not competition.
That hunger for community further distinguishes them from the radical
individualists of the baby-boom years. In fact, in some respects Gen Y
emerges as radically conventional. Asked about their life goals, 52% say
being a good parent is most important to them, followed by having a
successful marriage; 59% think that the trend of more single women
having children is bad for society. While more tolerant than older
generations, they are still more likely to disapprove of than support
the trend of unmarried couples living together. While they’re more
politically progressive than their elders, you could argue that their
strong support for gay marriage and interracial marriage reflects their
desire to extend traditional institutions as widely as possible. If
boomers were always looking to shock, millennials are eager to share.
The greatest divide of all has to do with hope and heart. In any age,
young folk tend to be more cheerful than old folk, but the hope gap has
never been greater than it is now. Despite two wars and a nasty
recession that has hit young people hardest, the Pew survey found that
41% of millennials are satisfied with how things are going, compared
with 26% of older people. Less than a third of those with jobs earn
enough to lead the kind of life they want — but 88% are confident that
they will one day.
Let’s hope that optimism doesn’t get extinguished with the passing of
time and maturity. Based on the way things are going, future
generations will need every bit of hope and heart they can muster.