Five generations of one family: in the center, a child; on the far left, her mother; on the far right, the child's grandmother; second from the left, the child's great-grandmother; and second from the right, the child's great-great-grandmother.

Generation (from the Latin generāre, meaning "to beget"), [1] also known as procreation in biological sciences, is the act of producing offspring. In a more general sense, it can also refer to the act of creating something inanimate such as ideas, sound, electrical generation using technology or cryptographic code generation.

A generation can refer to stages of successive improvement in the development of a technology such as the internal combustion engine, or successive iterations of products with planned obsolescence, such as video game consoles or mobile phones.

In biology, the process by which populations of organisms pass on advantageous traits from generation to generation is known as evolution.


Familial generation

It is important to distinguish between familial and cultural generations. Some define a familial generation as the average time between a mother's first offspring and her daughter's first offspring. For much of human history the average generation length has been determined socially by the average age of women at first birth, about 16 years. This is due to the place it holds in the family unit economics of committing resources towards raising of children, and necessitating greater productivity from the parents, usually the male. With greater industrialisation and demand for cheap female labour, urbanisation, delayed first pregnancy, a greater uncertainty in relationship stability have all contributed to the increase of the generation length through the late-18th to the late-20th centuries. These changes can be attributed to both societal level factors, such as GDP and state policy, and related individual level variables, particularly a woman's educational attainment.[2] In developed nations the average familial generation length is in the high 20s and has even reached 30 years in some nations.[3] As of 2008, the average generation length in the United States was 25 years, up 3.6 years since 1970[4]. Germany saw the largest increase in generation length over that time period, from 24 years in 1970 to 30 years in 2008.[3] Conversely, generation length has changed little and remains in the low 20s in less developed nations.[4][3]

Cultural generation

The U.S. baby boom generation is seen here as the widest bulge of the 2000 Census data.

Cultural generations are cohorts of people who were born in the same date range and share similar cultural experience. The idea of a cultural generation, in the sense that it is used today gained currency in the 19th century. Prior to that the concept "generation" had generally referred to family relationships, not broader social groupings. In 1863, French lexicographer Emile Littré had defined a generation as, "all men living more or less at the same time."[5]

However, as the 19th century wore on, several trends promoted a new idea of generations, of a society divided into different categories of people based on age. These trends were all related to the process of modernisation, industrialisation, or westernisation, which had been changing the face of Europe since the mid-eighteenth century. One was a change in mentality about time and social change. The increasing prevalence of enlightenment ideas encouraged the idea that society and life were changeable, and that civilization could progress. This encouraged the equation of youth with social renewal and change. Political rhetoric in the 19th century often focused on the renewing power of youth influenced by movements such as Young Italy, Young Germany, Sturm und Drang, the German Youth Movement, and other romantic movements. By the end of the 19th century European intellectuals were disposed toward thinking of the world in generational terms, and in terms of youth rebellion and emancipation.[5]

Two important contributing factors to the change in mentality were the change in the economic structure of society. Because of the rapid social and economic change, young men particularly were less beholden to their fathers and family authority than they had been. Greater social and economic mobility allowed them to flout their authority to a much greater extent than had traditionally been possible. Additionally, the skills and wisdom of fathers were often less valuable than they had been due to technological and social change.[5] During this time, the period of time between childhood and adulthood, usually spent at university or in military service, was also increased for many people entering white collar jobs. This category of people was very influential in spreading the ideas of youthful renewal.[5]

Another important factor was the break-down of traditional social and regional identifications. The spread of nationalism and many of the factors that created it (a national press, linguistic homogenisation, public education, suppression of local particularities) encouraged a broader sense of belonging, beyond local affiliations. People thought of themselves increasingly as part of a society, and this encouraged identification with groups beyond the local.[5]

Auguste Comte was the first philosopher to make a serious attempt to systematically study generations. In Cours de philosophie positive Comte suggested that social change is determined by generational change and in particular conflict between successive generations.[6] As the members of a given generation age, their "instinct of social conservation" becomes stronger, which inevitably and necessarily brings them into conflict with the "normal attribute of youth"— innovation. Other important theorists of the 19th century were John Stuart Mill and Wilhelm Dilthey.

Karl Mannheim was a seminal figure in the study of generations. He suggested that there had been a division into two primary schools of study of generations until that time: positivists, such as Comte who measured social change in fifteen to thirty year life spans, which he argued reduced history to “a chronological table.” The other school, the “romantic-historical” was represented by Dilthey and Martin Heidegger. This school emphasised the individual qualitative experience at the expense of social context.

Mannheim emphasised that the rapidity of social change in youth was crucial to the formation of generations, and that not every generation would come to see itself as distinct. In periods of rapid social change a generation would be much more likely to develop a cohesive character. He also believed that a number of distinct sub-generations could exist.

Jose Ortega y Gasset was another influential generational theorist of the 20th century.

Since then, generations have been defined in many different ways, by different people. Generational claims can often overlap and conflict. Often generational identification has a strongly political implication or connotation.

List of generations

Western world

This photograph depicts four generations of one family: an infant, her mother, her maternal grandmother, and one of her maternal great-grandmothers.

  • The Silent Generation born 1925 to 1945, is the generation that includes those who were too young to join the service during World War II. Many had fathers who served in World War I. Generally recognized as the children of the Great Depression, this event during their formative years had a profound impact on them.
  • The Baby Boom Generation is the generation that was born following World War II, from 1946 up to 1964, a time that was marked by an increase in birth rates.[9] The baby boom has been described variously as a "shockwave"[10] and as "the pig in the python."[11] By the sheer force of its numbers, the boomers were a demographic bulge which remodeled society as it passed through it. In general, baby boomers are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values; however, many commentators have disputed the extent of that rejection, noting the widespread continuity of values with older and younger generations. In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of affluence.[10] One of the features of Boomers was that they tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before them. In the 1960s, as the relatively large numbers of young people became teenagers and young adults, they, and those around them, created a very specific rhetoric around their cohort, and the change they were bringing about.[12]
  • Generation X (also known as the 13th Generation and the Baby Busters)[13] is the generation generally defined as those born after the baby boom ended.[14] While there is no universally agreed upon time frame, [15] the term generally includes people born from the latter 1960s through the late 1970s to early 80s, usually not later than 1982.[16][17][18][19] The term had also been used in different times and places for various different subcultures or countercultures since the 1950s.[20]
  • Generation Y, the Millennial Generation (or Millennials),[17][21] Generation Next,[22] Net Generation,[23] Echo Boomers,[24] describes the next generation. As there are no precise dates for when the Millennial generation starts and ends, commentators have used birth dates ranging somewhere from the mid-1970s[25] to the early 2000s.[26] Experts differ on the start date of Generation Y. William Strauss and Neil Howe use the start year as 1982, and end years around the turn of the millennium,[27][28] while others use start years that are earlier or later than 1982, and end years that in the mid to 1993.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40]
  • Generation Z, also known as Generation I, or Internet Generation, and Generation Text[41], and dubbed Generation @ [42] by New York columnist Rory Winston and the "Digital Natives" by Marc Prensky and is the following generation.[43] The earliest birth is generally dated in the early 1990s.[44]

Eastern world

  • In China, the Post-80s (Chinese: 八零后世代 or 八零后) (born-after-1980 generation) (also sometimes called China's Generation Y) are those who were born between the year 1980 to 1989 in urban areas of Mainland China. These people are also called "Little Emperors" (or at least the first to be called so) because of the People's Republic of China's one-child policy. Growing up in modern China, China’s Gen Y has been characterised by its optimism for the future, newfound excitement for consumerism and entrepreneurship and acceptance of its historic role in transforming modern China into an economic superpower. Other Chinese generations are also named in a similar fashion, with Post-90s (Chinese: 九零后) referring to modern teenagers and college students.
  • In South Korea, generational cohorts are often defined around the democratization of the country, with various schemes suggested including names such as the "democratization generation", 386 generation[45][46] (also called the "June 3, 1987 generation"), that witnessed the June uprising, the "April 19 generation" (that struggled against the Syngman Rhee regime in 1960), the "June 3 generation" (that struggled against the normalization treaty with Japan in 1964), the "1969 generation" (that struggled against the constitutional revision allowing three presidential terms), and the shinsedae ("new") generation.[46][47][48]
  • In India, generations tend to follow a pattern similar to the broad western model, although there are still major differences, especially in the older generations.[49] According to one interpretation, Indian independence in 1947 marked a generational shift in India. People born in the 1930s and 1940s tended to be loyal to the new state and tended to adhere to "traditional" divisions of society. Indian "boomers", those born after independence and into the early 1960s, tended to link success to leaving India and were more suspicious of traditional societal institutions. Events such as the Indian Emergency made them more sceptical of government. Generation X saw an improvement in India's economy and they are more comfortable with diverse perspectives. Generation Y continues this pattern.
  • (From section "Post-80s in Hong Kong" of Post-80s) Post-80s in Hong Kong and the after-eighty generation in mainland China are for the most part different.[50] The term Post-80s (八十後) came into use in Hong Kong between 2009 and 2010, particularly during the course of the opposition to the Guangzhou-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, during which a group of young activists came to the forefront of the Hong Kong political scene.[51] They are said to be "post-materialist" in outlook, and they are particularly vocal in issues such as urban development, culture and heritage, and political reform. Their campaigns include the fight for the preservation of Lee Tung Street, the Star Ferry Pier and the Queen's Pier, Choi Yuen Tsuen Village, real political reform (on June 23), and a citizen-oriented Kowloon West Art district. Their discourse mainly develops around themes such as anti-colonialism, sustainable development, and democracy.[52]

Other generations

The term generation is sometimes applied to a cultural movement, or more narrowly defined group than an entire demographic. Some examples include:

  • The Beat Generation, a popular American cultural movement that most social scholars say laid the foundation of the pro-active American counterculture of the 1960s. It consisted of Americans born between the two world wars who came of age in the rise of the automobile era, and the surrounding accessibility they brought to the culturally diverse, yet geographically broad and separated nation. The Beat Generation is between the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers.
  • The Hip Hop Generation, another popular American cultural movement describing a musical and cultural phenomenon that from humble beginnings had an international impact. Coined by author Bakari Kitwana, it describes a generation of people, regardless of race, who came of age in post-segregation America. Kitwana establishes the years 1965-1984, which includes Generation X and Generation Y.
  • The Stolen Generation, children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments between approximately 1869 and 1969.
  • The Generation of €700 is a term popularized by the Greek mass media and refers to educated Greek twixters of urban centers who generally fail to establish a career. Young adults are usually forced into underemployment in temporary and occasional jobs, unrelated to their educational background, and receive the minimum allowable base salary of €700. This generation evolved in circumstances leading to the Greek debt crisis and participated in the 2010–2011 Greek protests. [53]

See also

External links


  1. ^ "Generate | Define Generate at". 1995-06-15. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  2. ^ Bedasso, Biniam Egu. [1] Investing in education as a means and as an end: exploring the microfoundations of the MDGs. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Research Report, March 2008, accessed April 15, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Social Policy Division [2] SF2.3: Mean age of mothers at first childbirth, accessed April 15, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Mathews TJ, Hamilton BE. [3] Delayed childbearing: More women are having their first child later in life. NCHS data brief, no 21. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009, accessed April 14, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e Wohl, Robert (1979). The generation of 1914. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. pp. 203–209. ISBN 978-0-674-34466-2. 
  6. ^ "Hans Jaeger. Generations in History: Reflections on a Controversy. Translation of "Generationen in der Geschichte: Überlegungen zu einer umstrittenen Konzeption," originally published in Geschichte und Gesellschaft 3 (1977), 429-452. p 275." (PDF). Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  7. ^ Wohl, Robert (1979). The generation of 1914. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-34466-2. 
  8. ^ Hunt, Tristram (2004-06-06). "One last time they gather, the Greatest Generation". The Observer (London). Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  9. ^ U.S. Census Bureau
  10. ^ a b Owram, Doug (1997). Born at the Right Time. Toronto: Univ Of Toronto Press. p. x. ISBN 0802080863. 
  11. ^ Jones, Landon (1980). Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation. New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan. 
  12. ^ Owram, Doug (1997). Born at the Right Time. Toronto: Univ Of Toronto Press. p. xi. ISBN 0802080863. 
  13. ^'s.html
  14. ^ Shin, Annys. "Non-Toxic Tots". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  15. ^ Encyclopedia of Identity By Ronald L. Jackson, II
  16. ^ Rosenburg, Matt (2009-03-01). "Names of Generations (per the Population Reference Bureau)". Retrieved 2011-06-04. 
  17. ^ a b Strauss, William & Howe, Neil. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. Perennial, 1992 (Reprint). ISBN 0-688-11912-3 p. 324
  18. ^
  19. ^ Carlson, Elwood (2008-06-30). The Lucky Few: Between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom. Springer. ISBN 978-1-4020-8540-6. 
  20. ^ Ulrich, John (2003-11-05). "Introduction: A (Sub)cultural Genealogy". In Andrea L. Harris. GenXegesis: essays on alternative youth. pp. 3. ISBN 9780879728625. 
  21. ^ Shapira, Ian (2008-07-06). "What Comes Next After Generation X?". Education (The Washington Post): pp. C01. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  22. ^ "The Online NewsHour: Generation Next". PBS. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  23. ^ Cheese, Peter (2008-03-13). "Netting the Net Generation". Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  24. ^ Armour, Stephanie (2008-11-06). "Generation Y: They've arrived at work with a new attitude". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-11-27. 
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Howe, Neil; Strauss, William (September 2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Generation. New York: Vintage. pp. 3–120. ISBN 978-0-375-70719-3. 
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ McCrindle, Mark (2005-07-18). "Superannuation and the Under 40’s: Summary Report: Research Report on the Attitudes and Views of Generations X and Y on Superannuation." ( McCrindle Research. "Generation X comprises those aged between 24 and 40...Generation Y 1982-2000..." 
  31. ^ Kershaw, Pam (2005). "Managing Generation X and Y". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2010-12-18. "Mark McCrindle, director of McCrindle Research Pty Ltd which specialises in social and generational studies, says differences between generations in the workplace have never been greater...Generation Y: born 1982 onwards, aged 23 or younger." 
  32. ^ Shoebridge, Neil (2006-10-11). "Generation Y: Catch Them If You Can". Australian Financial Review (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2010-12-18. "The definitions of generation Y vary...others plumping for 1982 to 1995." 
  33. ^ "State of the News Print Media in Australia Report 2008". Australian Press Council. 2008-12-22. Retrieved 2010-12-18. "This comment is not meant to convey a negative in regard Generation X (1965–1981) and Generation Y (1982–2000)." 
  34. ^ "Generation X and Y: Who They Are and What They Want". Board Matters Newsletter 8 (3). 2008-11. Retrieved 2010-12-18. "Generation Y 1982-2000" 
  35. ^ "Achievement for All Children: An Apple Canada Perspective" ( Apple Canada. Apple Inc.. 2004-04-19. Retrieved 2010-12-19. "Generation Y, or the 'Millennials,' as they prefer to be called, are the children of the Boomers and early-wave members of Generation X. They account for almost 26% of Canada’s population. Born between 1982 and 2000, this first generation of the new millennium populates classes in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities." 
  36. ^ Crealock, Martha (2008-Jan.). "The Teachers Write – About Millennials" ( Bridges 6 (2): 10–11. "This issue’s topic is the Millennials. There has been a lot of talk about ‘Millennials,’ or “Generation Y”: young people born between 1982 - 2000." 
  37. ^ "Generation Y: Challenging Employers to Provide Balance: Who are Generation Y and do employers and managers in the non-profit sector really need to fear them?". Family Connections 12 (2). 2008-Summer. Retrieved 2010-12-19. "Generation Y – also frequently known as the Echo Boomers, the Millenials, the Net Generation, or the Next Generation – are those people born between 1982 and 1997." 
  38. ^ "Millennials & The Digital Entertainment Age: A Sourcebook for Consumer Marketers", The Millennials, Toronto, Canada: Digital Media Wire, 2008-03-05,, retrieved 2010-12-19, "By the year 2010, Millennials, born between 1982 and 1993, will outnumber both Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers and will be the most significant consumer sector for the media & entertainment industries." 
  39. ^ "Destination Canada: Are We Doing Enough?". Deloitte Tourism, Hospitality & Leisure Industry and Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC): 1–16. 2009. Retrieved 2011-03-28. "67% are members of Generations X (1961-81) and Y (1982-2001), or the 'contemporary generations'" 
  40. ^ Joel, Mitch (2010-10-14). "Social Media a Waste of Time? Not to Gen Y". The Vancouver Sun (Pacific Newspaper Group). Retrieved 2010-12-19. "Contrast the news above with this blog post last week from MediaPost’s Engage — Gen Y titled, Social Network Disconnect (Oct. 8), which looks at generation Y (those born between 1982 and 1993)." 
  41. ^
  42. ^ Winston, Rory (February 2003). "Generation @". NY Resident Magazine. Retrieved 8 Jan 2011. 
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^ "Fiasco of 386 Generation". Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  46. ^ a b "Shinsedae: Conservative Attitudes of a ‘New Generation’ in South Korea and the Impact on the Korean Presidential Election". Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  47. ^ (Korean)
  48. ^ [4][dead link]
  49. ^ "Generational Differences Between India and the U.S". 2009-02-28. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  50. ^ Post 80s rebels with a cause, The Standard, Coleen Lee, 15 Jan 2010, Accessed 20 Jun 2010
  51. ^ Kwong wing-yuen (ed.), Zhan zai dan de yi bian, Xianggang bashihou, Hong Kong, UP Publications Limited, 2010, pp. 16-32.
  52. ^ "From the Star Ferry Pier to the Express Rail : emancipate the city and the citizen - Analysis of Hong Kong's new civil society"Le mouvement civique urbain hongkongais Emanciper la ville et le citoyen (French)
  53. ^,,15117098,00.html

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