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The Kids Are… Different

The Norway comparison is, to me, untrue. It’s like Twenge does not believe the reader to understand the figure of 5.8 million. It is, at best, condescending. It is, at worst, an attempt to expand the size of the brain that the person is reading. The author’s “perspective” almost always nudges in this direction.

I’m also curious whether the generational framing strategy works in the way she suggests. Twenge writes:

The time in which you were born will have a significant influence on your behavior, attitude, and values, as well as the traits of your personality. In reality, the year you were born will have an impact on your character and attitude than the family that brought you up does. (p. 2)

But her analysis shows that a lot is happening beyond the generations. She often lays out the trends that are different by gender, educational level, and other demographic factors.

Birth year in and of itself cannot be considered a probable causal factor. Certain events may affect certain groupings more than others. For instance, the 2001 terrorist attacks or the 2008 financial crisis. However, Twenge does not view these instances as the primary factors that determine generational beliefs.

Twenge places technology at the forefront as a causal factor. She focuses on small technological changes, particularly the Internet as well as smartphones, as well as social media. These breakthroughs came about when different generations were of different ages.

Computers and email have slayed Gen X from Boomers, the Millennials who text of Gen X, and TikTok Gen Z away from Gen Z. (p. 156)

“With higher college enrollment and less early marriages, youngsters are actually spending more time in what appears to older generations as an adolescent. It also seems to be an adolescence that’s less adventurous and more protected.”

Other causal variables work more slowly. A trend is towards an earlier age, that is, she’s getting older to enter the workforce and to form households. With higher college enrollment and fewer early marriages, younger people are spending longer in what appears to older generations as adolescence. It is also an adolescence that is more reserved and less adventurous.

Individualism has a history that was in existence prior to the 20th century. However, Twenge believes it is accelerating in recent years. For her, identity is:

… an outlook on the world that focuses more on the individual… Individualistic cultures such as those in the U.S. value freedom, independence, and equality, whereas more collective cultures like South Korea instead value group harmony and the rule of law.

… Through the mid-1960s and the 1970s, the extremely individualistic society we live in now was beginning to take shape in a variety of countries around the globe. Personal decision-making was the most important factor, and it was the case that the U.S. military became an all-volunteer army as well. “do your own thing” was the new mantra. The sacrifice for the good of others was not as coveted. Being a person is leaving aside the notion that group membership is a matter of fate and spawned groups for the rights of individuals that were based on race, gender, and class, which affirmed equality as a fundamental cultural value.

… From 1980 to 2019, personal expressions that promote self-expression and optimism increased in frequency the more than 25 million books that were scanned Google Google (p. 9-10)

These definitions are somewhat unclear. I would have liked to see her take more care to spell out what she is referring to by individualism.

It is easiest to think about the differences between a small-scale village and an urban one. In a tightly-knit community, everybody knows who you are. The people with whom you conduct business are the same ones whom you spend time with in activities or meet on the street, at the church, or in bars. The rules of the community govern your behavior and expectations for you based upon your behavior in the past. Up until the Industrial Revolution, a boy usually took on the father’s work (typically farming) while a girl would take the mother’s position (farmer’s spouse or urban household).

For more details on these topics For more information, read The Boys Under the Bus,” written by Arnold Kling. Library of Economics and Liberty, 

In our modern times, you are granted greater flexibility to determine your style. As a result, people pay more consideration to their professions and associates and their loyalty, their love partners, and also their convictions. I can think of this when I hear the word “individualism.”

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Jane S. King

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