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Generation Gap

The term "generation gap," which came into popular and scholarly use during the late 1960s and early 1970s, refers to differences in values of older and younger generations. Initially, it was thought that adolescents needed to express opinions and internalize value systems that were distinct from their parents' to individuate successfully and create separate identities. But parents often do not perceive striking dissimilarities between their own values and those of their offspring, in part because of their need to feel connected to their children. Although it is possible to contrast the political ideology and consumer behaviors of cohorts of parents and adolescents in a society, typically few differences exist when comparing the values of older and younger generations within a family line. Contrary to the prediction that the generation gap promotes identity achievement, adolescents report a weaker sense of personal identity when they view family life differently from their parents.


Bengston, V. L. "The Generation Gap."Youth and Society Vol. 2(1970):7-32.

Fiese, Barbara H. "Dimensions of Family Rituals across Two Generations: Relation to Adolescent Identity." Family Process Vol. 31 (1992):151-162.

Lynott, P. P., and R. Roberts. "The Developmental Stake Hypothesis and Changing Perceptions of Intergenerational Relations, 1971-1985." The Gerontologist Vol. 37 (1997):394-405.

Mead, Margaret. Culture and Commitment: A Study of the Generation Gap. New York: Basic Books, 1970.

Barbara H. Fiese

Julie Poehlmann

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 4