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This generation – Is it really that different?

Posted on February 12, 2019

By KeriAnne Moon, Social Counselor

In my practice of clinical and academic work, I have found this question being asked over and over again – with every generation. The young ask why the elder generations just don’t get it and the elder generations state that the young are ill-mannered. Correspondingly, some references to technology are inevitable when speaking about generational differences. One difference could be that Generation Z (born 1995 to around 2012) are born into technology and anyone born before about 1983 can attest that cords on phones were a thing and the commodore was not just a naval ranking. There has been some recent research on social media and how that can be connected to a mental health deterioration however Hardy and Castonguay (2018) state that this is really a generational difference. Those that are of the generation born into technology (digital natives) have fewer negative effects of social networking sites opposed to those that are immigrants of technology (Hardy & Castonguay, 2018).

Another way to investigate these generational differences is to see what the younger generation themselves think. A New York Times article written by a student, Katherine Schulten (Generation Z) gives some insight that while they may not want to pick up a phone to talk, they are engaged in social change (Schulten, K., 2018, September 5). The student writer reports not all generations think the same way and while there may be some negatives prescribed to younger generations, there also can be positive differences in generations.

Yet another generational difference that has much evidence behind it is that our kids are much more anxious then the kids of the Great Depression (1930s) (Twenge, 2018). With such economic uncertainty in both Generation Z and the Silent Generation/GI Generation (those living through the Great Depression) we can rule out economic pressure as the sole cause. One thing we can think about is the individualistic nature of our culture in the United States. This is certainly something that has changed since the time of the Great Depression. A leading expert in generational changes and mental health, Twenge (2018) posits that “Overall, the cultural shift toward individualism and focusing on the needs of the self produced clear benefits such as freedom and equality but also destabilized relationships and heightened expectations, possibly leading to increased anxiety and depression” (Twenge, 2018, p 470). So, as we move forward into this new year, I hope we can think of community as a positive force in the realm of wellness.

References

Hardy, B.W. & Castonguay, J. (2018). The Moderating Role of Age in the Relationship between Social Media Use and Mental Well-Being: An Analysis of the 2016 General Social Survey. Computers in Human Behavior. 85, 282-290.

Schulten, K. (2018, September 5). What Do Older Generations Misunderstand About Teenagers Today? The New York Times: Student Opinion.

Twenge, J.M. (2018). Generational Differences in Mental Health: Are Children and Adolescents Suffering More, or Less? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(4), 469-472.

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