Baby boomers, generation X, millennials. Generational labels like these are attached to a number of defining people, places and things. Primary figures in anthropology, psychology and sociology have continuously debated on whether generational attitudes and other characteristics are unique from one another or if they cycle with a predictable similarity. Scientific observations have revealed that both ideologies have some truth to them, but bridging the gap between these generational groups of teens may carry more benefits for future lives.
Assessing teen desires and behaviors over time
One generational issue that has been addressed multiple times is the idea that today’s group of emerging adults is significantly more spoiled, entitled and down-right lazy. Research from San Diego State University sought to explore if modern teens are indeed more materialistic or if adults have a tendency to view younger demographics in a more critical light. Professor Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. and Tim Kasser, a professor of psychology at Knox College, used survey data from about 355,000 U.S. high school seniors between 1976 and 2007.
Results showed that 62 percent of recent high school graduates had a desire for money and other tangible possessions, but 39 percent said they did not want to work hard. In contrast, only 55 percent of graduates from 1976 to 1978 wanted material gains while 25 percent reported they did not want to work for it.
Dr. Twenge explained, “This suggests that advertising may play a crucial role in the development of youth materialism… as advertising rarely shows the work necessary to earn the money necessary to pay for the advertised products.”
Highlighting similarities and cross-generational cooperation
Despite the natural diversity between older and newer generation adolescents, additional academic investigations have highlighted how different generations of teens share important similarities. This is true for the 2004 study, “Dimensions of Family Rituals Across Two Generations: Relation to Adolescent Identity,” where Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., of George Washington University strictly compared a total of 77 families within two generations of teenagers and found shared positive and negative correlations between rites of passage and self-perception. For example, a fostered sense of identity was associated with symbolism and affect regarding family rituals. In addition, a higher degree of parent-child disagreement about rituals was linked with a lower sense of belonging.
Overall, many experts agree that more progress is achievable when age groups cooperate on a societal level. As told in her 2010 article, “Understanding Adolescents Through the Generations,” school health consultant Jane Stueve of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment summarized that, “With each generation having a unique perspective, set of experiences and ideas that they bring to the table, adolescents have to use their strengths and problem solving skills to figure out where they fit into the picture… Success can be built by using each generation’s assets.”
Instead of focusing on what sets different generations apart, highlighting what binds human beings together can help push needed progress in the right direction. Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a specialized facility that can help adolescents entering college with their respective mental health, substance abuse and dual diagnosis issues. Call us to speak with a professional and regain control of your life.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer