Key Trends that Shaped This Generation
The most influential years for this generation as a whole are the 90s and the 00s. They’re the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital media. Just as all generations are programmed from the moment of birth, the Millennials began a series of programming experiences when they were infants. These experiences created the filters through which they see the world-especially the world of work. Eight key trends of the 90s and 00s have had a profound effect on their generational personality.
– Focus on children and family. In the decades right before and after the turn of the Millennium, Americans moved the spotlight back onto kids and their families. That spotlight has swung like a pendulum over the last sixty years. During the post-WWII era, children were all the rage. It was a popular time to be having kids and to be a kid. Then, when the Gen-Xers were growing up, the spotlight had shifted. Latchkey kids, children of divorce, and kids with two working parents found themselves growing up on their own, in the shadow of the Baby Boom The early 90s saw the spotlight swinging back. Las Vegas and Club Med went family. Parents and grandparents took the kids along on trips across the country and to destinations all over the globe. Eating out-once an adult thing- became a family matter. Ninety percent of fathers attended the birth of their children. The Federal Forum on Family Statistics reported that national attention to children was at an all-time high (The earlier peak was in the 1960s when the Boomers were kids.). Older parents-the average age for moms was now 27- brought more maturity to their roles as caregivers, teachers, and coaches.
-Scheduled, structured lives. The Millennials were the busiest generation of children we’ve ever seen in the U.S, growing up facing time pressures traditionally reserved for adults. Parents and teachers micromanaged their schedules, planning things out for them, leaving very little unstructured free time. They were signed up for soccer camp, karate club, and ballet lessons-and their parents were called into service, shuttling them from one activity to the next. Some started carrying Daytimers when they were in elementary school.
-Multiculturalism. Kids grew up in the 90s and 00s with more daily interaction with other ethnicities and cultures than ever before. The most recent data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute shows that interracial interaction among college freshmen has reached a record high.
-Terrorism. During their most formative years, Millennials witnessed the bombing and devastation of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. They watched in horror as two Columbine High School students killed and wounded their classmates, and as school shootings became a three-year trend. And their catalyzing generational event-the one that binds them as a generation, the catastrophic moment they all witnessed during their first, most formative years- is, of course, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
-Heroism. Emerging out of those acts of violence, Millennials watched the re-emergence of the American hero. Policemen, firemen, firefighters, and mayors were pictured on the front page of the newspaper, featured on TV specials, and portrayed in art and memorabilia. In the 10 months following 9/11, the word hero was heard more than it had been in the entire 10 years before.
-Patriotism. During the post-Vietnam and Watergate era, patriotism was at an all-time low. Displaying the American flag, always and forever the right thing to do for members of the WWII Generation, had become less and less common-particularly among disillusioned Boomers and skeptical Xers. September 11 changed all that. Stores that carried flags sold out within 24 hours, ordered more and sold out again. Every other home and car seemed to fly the old red-white-and-blue. Businesspeople sported the stars and stripes on their lapels, and kids wore T- shirts with flags on the front, on the back, and on the shoulder. It seemed that national pride had been tested, and the overwhelming verdict was that patriotism was alive and well. politics represented the “largest one-year increase since the 1992 presidential election year.”
-Parent advocacy. The Millennials were raised, by and large, by active, involved parents who often interceded on their behalf. Protective Boomer and Xer parents tried to ensure their children would grow up safely and be treated well. Parents challenged poor grades, negotiated with the soccer coach, visited college campuses with their charges, and even went along to Army recruiting centers. Then, too, Millennials actually like their parents. In the Generation 2001 survey, conducted by Lou Harris on behalf of Northwest Mutual Life Insurance, Mom and Dad were most often named when young people were asked whom they admired.
-Globalism. With penpals in Singapore and Senegal, Millennials grew up seeing things as global, connected, and open for business 24/7.
Source: Connecting Generations: The Sourcebook by Claire Raines