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Generation (from the Greek γενεά), also known as procreation, is the act of producing offspring. It can also refer to the act of creating something inanimate such as electrical generation or cryptographic code generation.
A generation can also be a stage or degree in a succession of natural descent as a grandfather, a father, and the father's son comprise three generations.
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.
A generation has traditionally been defined as “the average interval of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring." This places a generation at around 20 years in span and this matches the generations up to and including the Baby Boomers. However, while in the past this has served sociologists well in analysing generations, it is irrelevant today.
Firstly, because cohorts are changing so quickly in response to new technologies, changing career and study options, and because of shifting societal values, two decades is far. Secondly, the time between birth of parents and birth of offspring has stretched out from two decades to more than three. Looking at Australian statistics, the median age of a woman having her first baby was 24 in 1976, while today it is just over 30. So, while the Boomers are the children of the Builders or Veterans, Gen Z are more than often the younger siblings of Gen Y – or the children of the late-breeding Gen X. In recent years, the median age of first-time mothers throughout the western world has reached record highs.
So, today a generation refers to a cohort of people born into and shaped by a particular span of time (events, trends and developments). And the span of time has contracted significantly.
More so than ever, the commonalities of today’s generations cut through global, racial/ethnic and socioeconomic boundaries. Due largely to globalisation made possible through the various technologies of today, a youth from Australia, the US, UK, Germany or Japan is shaped by the same events, trends and developments: they witnessing unprecedented declines in their national birth rate, are equally concerned by global warming, and more of their generation are tertiary-educated than their parents and grandparents. Also, the population of many countries today, including Australia, the US and the UK, is made up of diverse cultures and peoples, affected by the same events, trends and developments of the country they call home. Likewise, those living on Government pensions are aware of and shaped by the latter no differently than are celebrities and high-flyers.
The various labels given the living generations – the Builders through to Gen Z – reflect the times which have shaped their generational profile. The names given the Builders reflect the events that shaped them (the World Wars and the Depression); the Boomer labels, the population boom following World War II and the shedding of moral codes after the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s (the love generation and the lost generation, for example); the X-er labels, the material prosperity of the times (the options generation) and the after-math of the sexual revolution (the baby-busters), and the Gen Y labels, the digital age that heralded in its birth.
NB: Demographers have identified only five living generations in Australia; there are six in the US (see table below). Australia's living generations include: The Builders (1920-1945), the Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1979), Generation Y (1980-1997) and Generation Z (1998-2009).
- McCrindle Research 2006, New Generations at work, retrieved November 30, 2007.
- U.S. Census Bureau 2007, Facts for features: Mother's Day, retrieved November 30, 2007.
- "More women have a late pregnancy", BBC News, December 17, 2004, retrieved November 30, 2007.
- Zemke, R. et al 2000, Generations at work, AMACOM books, New York.
- William Strauss and Neil Howe (1991) Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069, ISBN 0-688-11912-3
Please note that these years that have been noted are quite vague and may differ slightly (in some cases quite substantially) from country to country.
|Builders (1901-1924)||Silent (1925-1942)||Boomers (1943-1960)||Generation X (1961-1981)||The Millennial Generation (1982-2002)|
|The greatest generation||The sandwich generation||The love generation||Slackers||Google generation||The gamers generation|
|The dying generation||The Depression generation||The me generation||The twenty/thirty somethings||The MySpace generation||The internet generation|
|The beat generation||Regan generation||Trailing-edge boomers||The generation after||The MyPod generation||Zeds/Zees|
|The booster generation||The beatniks||Leading-edge boomers||iGeneration||New silent generation|
|The war generation||The hippies||The gap generation||Spoiled generation||The corporation generation|
|The hero generation||The lost generation||The latchkey kids||The connected generation||Generation vista|
|The seniors||Breakthrough generation||Generation X men/women||Generation whY||The neo-Disney generation|
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