Is the new generation actually very different from older generations when they were young? If so, in what ways? In what ways are they similar?  

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Very often, older generations have concerns about the behavior of young people. Just looking at the United States in the twentieth century, we see that both the 1920s and the 1960s (and really beginning in the 50s) a "generation gap" developed, with older people very concerned about what seemed to be a very rebellious streak among the young. Of special concern was the apparently immoral behavior of younger people. So older people today who worry that the youth of today pose some sort of existential threat to society as we know it are not alone in a historical sense--parents and other adults have always struggled to understand their kids. But we should also note that important changes took in the twentieth century that changed the relationship between children and adults. The first is that, throughout the Western world, obligatory education and child labor laws meant that children were kept out of the workplace (even if it was the family farm) for a time. Also, psychologists began to analyze and theorize about the ways kids developed. The concept of "adolescence," basically unknown before, emerged. Beginning in the 1950s, kids became the targets of mass-marketing, as music, clothing, cars and other consumer goods were marketed to them. Adolescent behavior became a sort of commodity in itself, and parents began to fret that this was a threat to the morality of the youth. So in short, while parents always worried about the "younger generation," assuming that it represented a decline of morality, the very definition of youth has changed dramatically over time, perhaps intensifying generational conflict.

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