Over the years, there have been multiple discussions regarding statistical analysis of different generations. Apart from demographic data, certain thought processes, values, and behavioral patterns have been ascribed to cohorts like boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials. Now, they say a new cohort is being born, the Gen Z.
"But that's how you do statistical analysis," replies Twenge, a Gen X'er born in 1971. "You group people and compare them. Generational research is no different. Most of it is focused on personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, indicators of mental health—how all of those differ, on average, depending on when you were born."
Each generation has lived in its own context and they are shaped by society as much as society is shaped by them. Trying to assign specific traits to generalize a whole group may lead us to inaccurate conclusions. But doing a generational analysis may still give us insight into what makes our predecessors and successors tick.
"It helps us understand people younger and older than us. It has helped me understand my parents, and my kids," Twenge continues. "If people overgeneralize, that's a danger, but it's a problem of people misinterpreting the research—for example, thinking average differences apply to everyone."
On the other hand, generational differences aren't necessarily detrimental and their contrast may not be as stark as they are purported to be. These various generations don't live in a vacuum after all. One generation influences the other and vice versa.
The experiences of older generations may give insight that could propel newer generations to make things even better. We shouldn't neglect that synergy can be done among generations just as much as it can be done among races, genders, and other groups.
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