As a psychotherapist working with individuals and couples across the lifespan, I often notice situations where people are in distress due to a conflict caused by generational influence. Lately, I have come to notice an association between stress amongst the millennial generation as it relates to generational attitudes. Millennials, individuals born between the years 1977-1995 (a.k.a. Generation Y), report experiencing significant pressure about how to speed up their lives, in particular in their relationships. When exploring the source of such pressure, parents and familial influence were identified as strong influences. Parents of millennials are likely to be a part of the baby boomer generation, individuals born between the years of 1946-1964. As every generation brings with them their experiences of critical events in history, they also have their own contemporary attitudes. It is not uncommon for parents to use their perspectives to teach their children how to navigate life’s challenges. Whether these challenges include acquiring jobs, commitment in relationships, significant purchases, building a family, etc., parents’ teachings are inherently based upon their own experiences and attitudes. This can become particularly challenging when there is a discrepancy between parents and their (adult) children. One millennial shares their understanding of the difference between generations…
“I think millennials feel the most pressure. It (the future) is on us because we want change. We stray from the boomer mindset of one for ourselves and think more openly about the collective. We’ve learned from the boomers, who really lead the way!”
Some believe their parents have good intentions yet separate motivations for building success…
“I think boomer parents try to pressure millennial children into the boxes they put themselves in to succeed…like the idea that you have to work for a corporation. Boomers saw jobs as security for their families whereas millennials don’t see money as the be-all end-all. We care about what we work for and want fulfillment in our daily jobs. The hardest part of our generation is the balance between security and personal fulfillment.”
Others share that they feel pressured to take their parents’ preference into account in making major decisions…
“We all want our parent’s approval, especially when it comes to the people we date. I think that family and other adults have put on pressure on me to date within the religion I was brought up in. Also, being someone in a relationship for over 3 years now, a lot of adults start to ask about engagements, marriage and kids just because it seems like a logical next step. I want to get my feet off the ground, I want to travel, gain a little life experience before settling down. It’s a different generation; the baby boomers were all married with kids before 30, I just don’t see the millennial generation going in that same trend. I think it’s important that you really know yourself and are truly ready before you commit to marriage or children.”
Another shares that they accept their parents’ attitudes are different than their own and have a mutual understanding of approaching life differently…
“My parents try to influence my dating decisions but it doesn't necessarily work. I understand that they're from a different time. They got engaged in college, married at 23 and had two kids by my age. They don't really understand our generation’s trepidation for marrying early, and that's okay. Would they prefer I settled down earlier? Of course. Are they happy I've taken my time to find the right person to eventually settle down with? Absolutely.”
How do you believe generational patterns influence you? Feel free to contribute your ideas and comment below.
**All participants’ names have been changed to protect their privacy in their quotes above.