Is Anything REALLY the Matter with Kids Today?

How to manage the younger generations.  They are not like us.  They do not seem to share our values.   I can’t get through to them.

Ever said these things?  Of course, we all have.  Older human generations have been questioning the values of younger human generations since our species developed language.

How do you say “What’s the matter with kids today” in Caveman?

Some research from the Pew organization, that’s been around for 2 years but is still relevant, suggests Millennials, current 18-29-year olds, share our values but do not value institutions the same way we do.  The study copied below is Pew’s look at how different generations value marriage and children.

The Millennials, children of parents who got divorced at enormous rates, don’t rate marriage highly as a social institution or norm. But they do value good parenting very highly.

I think in managing and leading younger generations we have to think hard before pronouncing differences in values.  We might be mistaking values for lifestyle differences and causing everyone more headaches.  Here’s the Pew summary.

For Millennials, Parenthood Trumps Marriage

by Wendy Wang and Paul Taylor 3/9/11


Throughout history, marriage and parenthood have been linked milestones on the journey to adulthood. But for the young adults of the Millennial Generation1, these social institutions are becoming delinked and differently valued.

Today’s 18- to 29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of attitudinal surveys.

A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage– meaning there is a 22 percentage point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.

When this same question was posed to 18- to 29-year-olds in 1997, the gap was just 7 percentage points. Back then, 42% of the members of what is known as Generation X said being a good parent was one of the most important things in life, while 35% said the same about having a successful marriage.

Pew Research surveys also find that Millennials are less likely than adults ages 30 and older to say that a child needs a home with both a father and mother to grow up happily and that single parenthood and unmarried couple parenthood are bad for society.

In many—but not all—respects, these attitudinal changes mirror behavioral changes. Young adults today are slower to marry than were their counterparts in older generations. Just 22% of Millennials are currently married. Back when Gen Xers were the same age that Millennials are now, some three-in-ten of them were married, as were more than four-in-ten Baby Boomers and more than half of the members of the Silent Generation (ages 65 and older).

The delay in marriage among today’s young adults has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the rate of out-of-wedlock births. Just over half (51%) of all births among Millennials in 2008 were to unwed mothers, compared with just under four-in-ten (39%) among Gen Xers in 1997, when they were the same age that Millennials are now.

However, the overall incidence of parenthood among young adults has declined. In 2010, 36% of women ages 18 to 29 had ever had children; in 1998, that figure was 41%.

Even though their generation has been slow to marry and have children, most Millennials look forward to doing both. Among 18- to 29-year-olds who are not currently married and have no children, 70% say they want to marry and 74% say they want to have children. Among those who have never married and have no children, 66% want to marry and 73% want to have children.

However, a significant minority of Millennials aren’t sure they want marriage (25%) or parenthood (19%). And a small minority say they don’t want to marry (5%) or have children (7%).

Millennials are less likely than older generations to link marriage with parenthood. About a third of Millennials (34%) think that more unmarried couples raising children is a bad thing for society, compared with 45% of those ages 30 and older. Likewise, about six-in-ten (63%) Millennials think that single motherhood is bad for society, compared with seven-in-ten (71%) adults ages 30 and older. More than four-in-ten (44%) of Millennials say that the institution of marriage is becoming obsolete, compared with 37% of those ages 30 and older.

In addition, Millennials and Gen Xers are less likely than older generations to say that a child needs a home with both a father and a mother present to grow up happily. Only a slim majority of Millennials (53%) and Gen Xers (57%) say this, compared with three-quarters of adults who are 65 years or older.



About stephenomeara

My name is Jim Jordan. I have had the privilege of working with the Boston Police Department and hundreds more departments over my nearly 30-year career in police administration and city government. I am now teaching and consulting independently at I have learned the best of what I know from the thousands of smart, dedicated and ethical police personnel and scholars who have guided me along the way. My address is named for the great Reform commissioner of the Boston Police at the turn of the 20th century. Commissioner O'Meara died just a short while before the Strike in 1919. He was replaced by a vicious puppet (of Gov. Coolidge) named Edwin U. Curtis. Had O'Meara lived events may have turned out quite differently.
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