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HANDOUT 1: Generations Theory Summary

Based on the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe, in Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 (New York: Harper Perennial, 1992) and Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (New York: Vintage Books, 2000). This handout originally appeared in Workshop 15 of the Tapestry of Faith program, Faith Like a River: Themes in Unitarian Universalist History.

Below is a brief summary of the forces that shapes the generations of people in our congregations, as well as a list of broad generational characteristics. As is the case with any generalization, the lists may not accurately or completely describe the experiences and perspectives of an individual in a particular generation. Note where your experiences and perceptions are in line with the generalizations, and where they differ.

The GI Generation (born between 1901 and 1924)

Shaped by the Great Depression, World War II

Characteristics:

  • Many experienced upward mobility, faring better financially than their parents
  • Institution builders and leaders, conformist

The Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945)

Shaped by Roosevelt Presidency, Korean War, Cold War, Anticommunism, technological and scientific advances, Civil Rights movement

Characteristics:

  • Many experienced steadily rising affluence
  • Engaged in defining and humanizing the world; founded organizations of political dissent that boomers would later radicalize
  • Generation limited in numbers, caught between GIs and Boomers
  • Uncertain about roles and expectations, both personal and national

The Baby Boomers (born between 1943 and 1963)

Shaped by Civil Rights, Vietnam, sexual revolution, liberation movements, political unrest and assassination, Watergate scandal

Characteristics:

  • Revolt, rebellion, mistrust of institutions
  • Quest for "self;" decision making based on internal standards
  • Committed to values of gender equality, racial equality, environmental stewardship
  • Counter-culture gave way to strong right/left ideological divide

Generation X (born between 1964 and 1980)

Shaped by the Reagan and George H.W. Bush presidencies, the end of the Cold War, the AIDS epidemic, the home computer, the Internet as a tool for social and business purposes, high parental divorce rate, high incarceration rate

Characteristics:

  • Cynical and disengaged
  • Pragmatic
  • Self-contained
  • Pessimistic about economic future
  • Believe that a person's success or failure is based on their own choices

Millennials (born between 1981 and 2001)

Shaped by highly involved and protective parents and institutions, electronic social networking and new media, targeted marketing, Columbine school shooting, September 11 terrorist attack, unemployment, War on Drugs, environmentalism

Characteristics:

  • Tech-savvy
  • Seek instant gratification
  • Idealistic and community focused
  • Team players
  • Culturally liberal

As-yet-unnamed Generation (born after 2001)

Shaped by communications and technology, War on Terror, the first African American U.S. president, and forces as yet unknown

Characteristics:

  • To be revealed

For more information contact web@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, November 22, 2013.

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