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

Generation (from the Latin generāre meaning to beget[1]), also known as procreation, is the act of producing offspring. In a more generic sense, 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.

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. A familial generation is defined as the average time between a mother's first offspring and her daughter's first offspring. The generation length is 25.2 years in the United States as of 2007[2] and 27.4 years in the United Kingdom as of 2004[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."[4]

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 civilisation 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.[4]

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.[4] 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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[5] 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

There have been many conflicting attempts to enumerate the generations of the western world.[6] The following is a list of widely accepted cultural generations, sorted by region:

  • The Silent Generation born 1926 to 1938, 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 during World War II and up to the 1960s, a time that was marked by an increase in birth rates.[citation needed] The baby boom has been described variously as a "shockwave"[9] and as "the pig in the python."[10] 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.[9] 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.[11]
  • The following generation, referred to as Generation Z, Generation I[33][34], Digital Natives, iGen, Gen. Tech,[citation needed] the internet generation,[35] and various other names, was born during the 2000s.[36][37][38]
  • It has been suggested that the next generation, born from 2010, will be called "Generation Alpha".[39]

Eastern world

  • China: The after-eighty generation (Chinese: 八零后世代 )(short form: 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.
  • In South Korea generational cohorts are often defined around the democratization of the country, with various schemes suggested, some names include the democratization generation, 386 generation[40][41] (also called 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 shinsedae (new) generation.[41][42][43]
  • Indian generations tend to follow a pattern similar to the broad western model, although there are still major differences especially in the older generations.[44] According to one interpretation, Indian independence in 1947 marks a generational shift in India. People born in the 1930s and 40s, tended to be loyal to the new state, and tended to adhere to "traditional" divisions of society. For Indian Boomers, those born after Independence and into the early 1960s, they 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 are more comfortable with diverse perspectives. Generation Y continues this perspective.

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, and 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. Between the Lost Generation, and the Baby Boomers.

See also

External links


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ U.S. Census Bureau 2007, Facts for features: Mother's Day, retrieved November 30, 2007.
  3. ^ "More women have a late pregnancy", BBC News, December 17, 2004, retrieved November 30, 2007.
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Glenn, Joshua (2008-04-17). "Final words on Generations X and Y". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  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. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  9. ^ a b Owram, Doug (1997), Born at the Right Time, Toronto: Univ Of Toronto Press, p. x, ISBN 0802080863 
  10. ^ Jones, Landon (1980), Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan 
  11. ^ Owram, Doug (1997), Born at the Right Time, Toronto: Univ Of Toronto Press, p. xi, ISBN 0802080863, 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Strauss, William & Howe, Neil. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. Perennial, 1992 (Reprint). ISBN 0-688-11912-3 p. 324
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ a b Tovar, Molly (August/September 2007). "Getting it Right: Graduate Schools Respond to the Millenial Challenge". Communicator 40 (7): 1. Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  16. ^ a b Neuborne, Ellen (1999-02-15). "Generation Y". Business Week. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^ "How Generational Theory Can Improve Teaching: Strategies for Working with the "Millennials"" (PDF). Currents in Teaching and Learning 1 (1): 29–44. Fall 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Thielfoldt, Diane; Scheef, Devon (August 2004). "Generation X and The Millennials: What you need to know about mentoring the new generations". Law Practice Today. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  23. ^ *Neil Howe, William Strauss, Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, 1991, ISBN 0-688-11912-3
  24. ^ "A portrait of "Generation Next": How young people view their lives, futures and politics". Pew Research Center. 2007-01-09. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "How Generational Theory Can Improve Teaching: Strategies for Working with the "Millennials"" (PDF). Currents in Teaching and Learning 1 (1): 29–44. Fall 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  27. ^ "Sports Celebrity Influence on the Behavioral Intentions of Generation Y" Alan Bush, Craig Martin, Victoria Bush. JOURNAL OF ADVERTISING RESEARCH March 2004.
  28. ^ Generation Y: They've arrived at work with a new attitude. USA Today. 11/6/2005.
  29. ^ Attracting the twentysomething worker. May 15, 2007.
  30. ^ Y us? Gen Y feels economic pinch. The Age. Nicola Smith. September 29, 2008.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Leonard, Bill (January 2000). "After Generations X and Y Comes Generation I - Internet generation - Brief Article". BNET (Orig. HR Magazine). Retrieved 10 Feb 2010. 
  34. ^ Microsoft (28 October 1999). "The Challenge and Promise of "Generation I"". Press release. Retrieved 10 Feb 2010. 
  35. ^ Gardner, John William; Bryn Holmes (2006). E-Learning: Concepts and Practice. London: Sage Publications Ltd. pp. 61. ISBN 1-4129-1111-7. 
  36. ^ Taspcott, Don (2008). Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. McGraw-Hill. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0071508636. 
  37. ^ Walliker, Annalise (2008-02-25). "Generation Z comes of age". Herald Sun.,21985,23269842-662,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  38. ^ Schmidt, Lucinda; Hawkins, Peter (2008-07-15). "Children of the tech revolution". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^

Generations are cohorts of people who were born in a certain date range and share a general cultural experience of the world.

This only lists generations that have a large number of living people; only a tiny number of people born prior to the year 1900 are still alive today.

1900 to present day

Note: The following generations are listed in chronological order, but without specific birth year ranges.

  • The Silent Generation was the generation who was too young to join the service when World War II started and prior to the end of the war. Many had fathers who served in World War I.
  • Generation Jones is a term coined by Jonathan Pontell to describe the generation of people born between 1954 and 1965, the younger siblings of the Boomers. Barack Obama is the most well known member of this generation.
  • Generation X is the generation connected to the pop culture of the late 1970s to early 1990s they grew up in.[3] Other names used interchangeably with Generation X are Reagan Generation, 13th Generation, and Baby Busters. Most of this generation are children of The Baby Boomers and The Silent Generation. Those born before 1973 spent most of their teen years in the 1980s.[2] The last of those in Generation X were born in 1981 and graduated high school in 1999. [4]
    • The MTV Generation are typically conceived as a "cusp" generation between Generation X and Generation Y that possess definable traits of both. While the music video and MTV rose to prominence during this generation's formative period, it is also notable for being the last generation able to compare hardwired and analog technologies to wireless and digital technologies based upon personal experiences. They are also the last generation with personal memories of the Cold War era.
  • The Generation Y, or the "Millennials", are said to be dependent on digital technology. The start of this generation is marked by those born in 1982, or graduated high school in 2000.[5] The end is far less clear, from 1992 to 1993. It is in this generation that mobile phones, PCs and portable entertainment devices became affordable and readily available when the Gen Y-ers were in their teens or early 20s.
  • Generation Z are modern children, born from somewhere in the mid of the 1990s to the present, but some are claimed to born as early as 1992.

See also



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