Time Travelling Through the Generations

Babies are born every day. Because of this, the notion that you can divide humanity into generations seems a smidge mind boggling.

  • Release Date: 21 November 2022
  • Update Date: 15 March 2024
  • Author: Speaker Agency
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Ultimately, it all comes down to the environment in a sort of “chicken-and-egg” fashion. Parents shape generations of children who themselves are moulded by their parents and so on. 

What’s interesting about this process is how it always changes. Each set of parental characteristics leads to a new type of family-raising philosophy by their children. For instance, boomers coddled millennials because their own parents treated them harshly. 

In this post, we take a look at generations by name and year. Exploring different generation names and years, all generation names are decided retroactively since it isn’t always clear when one ends and another begins. Furthermore, it takes time for historians to define clear cut-off points for when one transitions into the next.

Usually, generations occur within 20-year timeframes (the main reproductive years of the parents, from age 18 to 38). Generations may span across longer periods in the future, though, thanks to increases in fertility periods and changing demographics. 

Pinning down a precise start and end date for any particular cohort is nigh on impossible. However, there are rough boundaries that most historians and demographers can agree on. 

Check out the following breakdown to learn about all generation names in chronological order.

The Greatest Generation - 1901 to 1924

The “greatest generation,” often called “generation GI,” grew up through the Great Depression and then went off to fight the war in Europe and the Pacific. 

Because they had such hard lives, they prioritised hard work and grit. They would often put in long hours at work and wouldn’t complain, even if conditions were tough. Union activity was minimal after the war with most members of this generation simply getting on with the hand life dealt them. 

Generation GI was also defined by the fantastic contributions they made to music,cinema and architecture. 

The Silent Generation - 1925 to 1945

The silent generation got their name for being conformists, willing to go along with whatever was happening around them. During McCarthyism, they were famous for not really saying anything and allowing events to take their course. 

While the GI generation was quite outgoing and industrious, the silent generation was different. They took a severe attitude towards parenting. And while they had a strong work ethic, they didn’t approach it with the same sense of gusto and fun as their predecessors did. 

People in the silent generation respected authority. They avoided causing disruption and worked to reduce conflict in the workplace. They also had a strong desire to feel needed by the people around them.

The Baby Boomers - 1946 to 1964

The baby boomers, also sometimes called the “boomers,” were the generation that immediately followed the war. During the six-year conflict, many parents from the greatest and silent generations were unable to have children or build families. Then, when the war ended in 1945, they immediately started having babies: lots of them. Birth rates in places like the UK and US saw a sharp increase as people prioritised building and adding to their families.

Boomers were the first ones in history that had parents who looked at growing up from their perspective. In the past, children served the family, but with boomers, it was the other way around. 

Because of this, boomers were quite different from their parents. While they had a strong work ethic, they were more competitive and goal-orientated than previous generations. They also had tremendous discipline and mental focus and were able to work effectively in teams, growing some of the most successful companies to ever exist. 

Critically, they were more radical than their parents. They began the concept of “family meetings” and were actively involved in anti-war protests against the US invasion of Vietnam in the 1970s. 

Generation X - 1965 to 1980

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Generation X is primarily the children of the boomer generation. They were sometimes referred to as “slackers,”. Gen X engaged heavily in MTV culture, political and LGBTQ issues. They grew up at a time when the AIDS epidemic reached its zenith. 

Generation X parenting styles differed considerably from their baby boomer parents. Boomers would often allow their children to play outside and come home whenever they liked, letting them do their own thing. Generation X, though, embodied helicopter parenting, trying to micromanage their kids, particularly around safety issues.

Generation X individuals tend to be independent. They are less likely to focus on communities or team building (which is one of the reasons you so rarely hear about gen X leaders in business). They also give more priority to work-life balance than previous generations. They work to live, not live to work. 

Often described as the “middle child” because of the short generation length, particularly in America, they like to dress down, take lavish vacations, and work by themselves.

Millennials - 1981 to 1996

Millennials are the generation who remembers where they were on 9/11 most vividly. Most were just old enough to understand the newscast scenes of the Twin Towers crumbling before their eyes. 

While many older adults consider millennials to be tech-savvy, they are not actually “digital natives.” In fact, most millennials remember a time before computers, smartphones and the internet took over the world. 

Baby boomers often consider millennials to be weak, selfish, and narcissistic. They are too focused on themselves, according to the older generation. 

But the reality is turning out to be quite different. While many were entitled and coddled as children, major crises such as the Great Depression and COVID-19 have given them a sense of stoicism and maturity that their parents didn’t expect. 

Millennials have seven basic characteristics, according to researchers. They are: 

  • A feeling of “specialness”
  • The need to achieve
  • The sensation of pressure to do well that accompanies them into adult life
  • A conventional approach to family life and careers
  • The need to be a part of a team
  • An underlying sense of confidence
  • A sense that they have been sheltered from the harsh realities of life

Millennials are generally quite good as parents. They’re open-minded and focus on raising their children as independent people. They keep physical punishment to a minimum and they don’t “helicopter” to the same degree as generation X. They are much more likely to let their children freely express who they are, particularly in the realm of gender and sexuality.

Millennials do not have the same strong work ethic as the generations that came before them, particularly compared to the silents and baby boomer generation. As a group, they are much more likely to explore non-work-related meaning in life and attempt to extract themselves from corporate capitalism. Hobbies, family, and travel are often more important to them. 

As for comedy, millennials possess a somewhat strange sense of humour often leaning towards a surreal, dark, or the absurd. Unlike boomers, a millennial who enjoys puns and old-school jokes are rare. 

Generation Z - 1997 to 2010

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Generation Z is the shortest generation on record. Sometimes called the iGen after the Apple Corporation’s product naming conventions, this generation didn’t know a time before computers or the internet. 

Gen Zers are perhaps the most enigmatic and diverse generation yet. The concept of diversity is par for the course. They grew up at a time that saw the US’s first black president and women taking part in every area of society as equal stake holders.  

Education played an important role in their belief formations. They have been taught in school about the importance of concepts, such as “equality”, “inclusion” and, as a result, they tend to be less fazed by social changes. For them, the LGBTQ+ revolution is perfectly normal; nothing new. 

As digital natives, generation Z understands computers and the internet instinctively. They came into the world at the peak of technical innovation and experienced the wonders of the digital revolution, social media being one of them. 

Sometimes, they have been called the “loneliest generation.” Even though they have sophisticated communication devices, they spend a lot of time in the house by themselves. 

They are also financially pragmatic. They watched how their parents struggled through the Great Recession and understand virtues, such as saving and investing, more than those listed above. 

Gen Z possesses a sense of humour that is at times quite bleak; a direct reference to the uncertainty they feel about their collective future. As a group, they value direct communication, relevance and authenticity. They are also interested in self-care and tend to mature quite rapidly.

Wrapping Up

If you’re wondering what the next generation coming down the pike is, it’s been dubbed Generation Alpha. Many experts believe that people born between 2010 and 2024 will share similarities to the generation Z cohort. 

They will be digital natives, connected to each other via their electronic devices thanks to the power of exponential technologies such as AI and IoT.  And, just like the generation before them, they will have profound uncertainty about what the future will bring. Climate change, global conflict and mental health will be significant issues in their lives. 

Generations' names are not strictly set in stone. When new generation naming comes along, it depends very much on the characteristics of the cohort, and the context. The characteristics of each generation are often the opposite of what came before, which leads to some interesting inter-societal dynamics. One thing is very clear; expect things to change radically every twenty years or so!

If you’d like to know more about generations please refer to our speaker Evrim Kuran's Generations video.

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