What Generation Gap Conflict?

Brad M. Griffin | Aug 13, 2009

Photo by Caleb Jones

Yesterday’s Pew Research Center release is a bit mystifying to me. In honor of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and the generation gap it represented (and glorified), Pew surveyed a little under 2,000 Americans over age 16 about their views on generational differences. Grain of salt in hand (random telephone surveys aren’t necessarily a representative slice of reality), I skimmed through the report.

Kara reported last month that previous Pew survey indicated an almost 80% agreement that there are major differences between young and old. The new study’s overall summary is that today’s generation gap still exists between young and old (I’d say there are multiple generation gaps that still exist, actually), but it’s “gentler”. In particular when it comes to parents and teens, parents report fighting less with their kids than they remember fighting with their parents, and half report spending more time with their kids than their parents spent with them (a finding echoed elsewhere). 40% of kids ages 16-24 and 41% of parents say they “hardly ever” have (or remember having when kids lived at home) major disagreements or arguments.

Is this reality, or a rose-colored look at self-reported behavior? While parents today do tend to spend more time with kids than in recent generations in the U.S. (an overgeneralization of existing research for sure), it’s debatable how much real connection happens when that time “together” is often mediated (or at least accompanied) by multiple forms of technology.

The low-conflict finding could of course be good news about family communication, though the skeptic in me wonders if it’s really more about lack of real conversation, issue avoidance, or simply false reporting (it’s embarrassing to admit that you have major conflict in your home as a parent, and teens actually taking the survey may be within earshot of parents who have to give permission for them to take the survey).

But I could be way off here. I’d love to know your thoughts. Generation gap or no? What have you seen played out in your homes or the families in your ministries?

Either way, Cameron Lee offers some helpful thoughts on healing intergenerational conflict (if it indeed exists) in his article, “Making Peace in Our Families

Read the Pew Report

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.

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