Generally speaking, a generation spans around fifty years. Society is always in a state of flux and this reflects in changing perceptions, technologies and cultural traits. Changes tend to accumulate over a number of years leading to dramatic differences between what obtains in one generation from another. Generations ‘melt’ into each other as one generation gradually passes away and another takes over. This is due to the fact that people live across two or more generations and differences manifest in generational contrasts and sometimes conflicts leading to the concept commonly referred to as a ‘generation gap.’ So what is a generation gap? A generation gap essentially is the sum total of differences in opinions, value judgements and cultural traits between the members of one generation and another. This is usually between younger and older people.
The Origin of the Term
The concept of generation gap first came into the limelight in the 1960s when it became clear that the younger generation were rebelling against everything their older parents and grandparents had stood for and believed in.
The Views of Sociologists
Sociologists have since carried out studies on this phenomenon and christened it “institutional age segregation.’’ Sociologists have conveniently divided the lifespan of people into childhood, midlife and retirement age. These basic sociological groups have been found to be socially segregated across society with possible exception of the nuclear family. This has led to groupings such as ‘youth centres” and “senior centres.’’ This phenomenon has attendant risks as the threat of isolation in old age becomes increasingly likely with “ageism’ segregating the society at an alarming rate. The better approach is to realize that both older and younger generations have much to benefit from each other. The older generation generally pass on deep knowledge, life experiences and knowledge to the younger generation. The younger generation on the other hand are more energetic and more likely to lead the charge in developing new ways of doing things or be more in tune with current trends of music and technology.
Distinguishing Between Generations
Generations have been given different names such as the generation X and the baby boomers. However, in order to clearly make a difference between one generation and the other, it is necessary to take a closer look at the distinguishing socio-cultural traits such as language, music, prevailing attitudes, technological and even political differences. One major linguistic difference between any two generations is in their use of slang. Another one is the differences in workplace attitudes.
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