Home Concepts Adult Development The Social and Cultural Characteristics of Generational Age Groups

The Social and Cultural Characteristics of Generational Age Groups

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Gen Xers spent less time with their parents than previous generations. The first to be recognized as “latchkey kids,” Xers found themselves home alone taking care of themselves and their siblings while their parents worked. They were not coddled for every emotional need and want, and divorce was common. Also, single-parent and blended families helped this generation to understand diversity and appreciate that families come in all shapes and sizes. Rather than respect for authority, the natural byproducts of the Generation X childhood have been autonomy, adaptability, and self-reliance (Endnote 19). Given their childhood experiences, Xers have a very different view of what is important than their workaholic Boomer parents. They enter the workplace with an expectation that balance in life is essential.

If work becomes too overwhelming, it’s not surprising to see Gen Xers leave and redirect their lives to a better match for their priorities and values. This isn’t to say that Gen Xers can’t be hard workers. It means they are driven by projects in which they are genuinely invested and don’t respond well to micromanagement. Xers are comfortable with authority but are not impressed with titles. Their leadership style is to ask “Why?” They treat everyone the same and challenge others when needed. Their communication style is sometimes taken as rude or impersonal because of its directness (Endnote 20).  Xers’ most sought-after values are autonomy, freedom, and meaningful work. Above all, they value an entrepreneurial spirit.

Having grown-up with double-digit inflation and seen parents lose jobs, members of Generation X tend to be economically conservative (Endnote 21). This translates to politics as well. They came of age during a time in which conservative ideas were ascendant and Ronald Reagan was president. They continue to support the Republican Party and conservative ideology more than any other generation. Xers broadly favor a libertarian position on social issues and tend toward strict punishment as the best means of handling crime. And they supported the invasion of Iraq (Endnote 22).

While Xers aren’t fixated on retirement needs, they have been smarter than their Boomer parents were about financial planning. They have saved more money than previous generations and have taken advantage of 401 (k) accounts, beginning this investment much earlier in their work life. And they have not waited to put money aside for their children (Endnote 23). Yet Xers are also saddled with significant financial debt. Some of this debt stems from educational loans, but even more is attributed to expensive lifestyle choices. Some 20 percent of Xers are depressed over financial obligations stemming from their lifestyle, and 33 percent are so deeply in debt they will probably never get out (Endnote 24).

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