Generation gap – definition and meaning

The Generation Gap is the difference in behavior, tastes, and preferences between people of different generations. In other words, the difference between how young people, middle-aged individuals, and seniors perceive things. It also refers to how different age groups dress, arrange their hair, talk, vote, etc.

Furthermore, the generation gap often influences language evolution, with each generation developing its own slang and colloquial expressions, reflecting changing cultural landscapes and technological advancements.

Sociologists say that the generation gap is a cause of misunderstandings and arguments between different age groups.

Technological advances often widen the generation gap. Especially the gap between the very elderly and the youngest generation. The youngest generation refers to young children and teenagers.

According to

“If you refer to the generation gap, you are referring to a difference in attitude and behavior between older people and younger people, which may cause them to argue or may prevent them from understanding each other fully.”

In today’s usage, the term usually refers to an apparent gap between younger people, their parents, and their grandparents.

Generation gap - definition and illustration
Some studies have shown that young people who despise older generations tend to become old people who despise young people. Does that mean that there is a generation gap type?

Generation gap – many generations

We divide society today into many different generations. Which generation you belong to depends on when you were born. Below is an explanation of six of them.

  • Generation Z

This is the youngest generation. The term refers to people born from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. This generation has the most widespread usage of the Internet from a very young age.

  • Millennials

We also call this age group ‘Generation Y’ or the ‘Millennial Generation.’ They were born from the early to mid-1980s to the year 2000.

In 2016, for the first time, there were more Millennials in the United States than Baby Boomers.

  • Generation X

We often refer to this generation in the abbreviated form – Gex X. They were born from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s.

Some Americans refers to this age group as the ‘baby bust’ generation. They got this nickname because of the dramatic decline in the birth rate after the baby boom.

In the United States and some other advanced economies, the decline in fertility rates started in the late 1950s.

  • Generation Jones

We also call it the Lost Generation. People born between 1954-56 and 1964-65 are Genjonesers. Initially, sociologists lumped this generation with the Baby Boomers.

While both generations grew up as children during an economic boom, Genjonesers became of age during the oil crises.

Consequently, Generation Jones people are more cynical than the idealistic Boomers.

  • Baby Boomers

These people were born after World War II. However, there are no clear dates. Birth dates are somewhere between the mid-1940s to about 1964. For those who recognize Generation Jones as a distinct generation, however, Boomers’ birth date ended in 1954.

During World War II, people did not want to start families. They did not want to because there was a world war.

However, in 1945, when WWII was over, people started planning to have a family. The reconstruction effort after the war meant there were lots of jobs around. Additionally, there was plenty of overtime work.

The combination of peacetime and job security encouraged people to have babies. Additionally, people wanted to make up for lost time. Consequently, there was a ‘baby boom.’ We call the baby boom babies ‘Baby Boomers.’

There was a marked generation gap between the Baby Boomers and the G.I. and Silent Generations. The Baby Boomers welcomed the new music of the Elvis Presley, Jimmy Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles.

Their parents and grandparents, however, were horrified. Baby boomers grew up during a period when men let their hair grow long, and the hippie movement flourished.

The women’s liberation movement also blossomed as the Baby Boomers were growing up.

Young people listened to a new type of music, wore different clothes, and talked about flower power.

Their parents tried to persuade their boys to keep their hair short, and their girls to become ‘good housewives.’ The Baby Boomers pushed back. In other words, the generation gap was huge.

  • The Silent Generation

This generation includes people born from 1925 to approximately 1942. Some of them fought in the Second World War. Many American males of this generation fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

  • G.I. Generation

These people were born from about 1901 to 1924. Many of them fought in WWII and experienced the hardship of the Great Depression. In fact, many came of age during the Great Depression.

Generation gap and the Brexit vote

In 2016, there was a referendum in Great Britain. People had to decide whether they wanted their country to remain in the European Union or leave.

It was a very close vote. Fifty-two percent of the electorate voted for Brexit, while 48% voted to remain. Brexit stands for BRitain EXITing the European Union (EU). In other words, Brexit means leaving the EU.

The generation gap in that referendum was stark. More than 60% of people aged from 18-to-30 years voted to Remain. However, more than 60% of retired people, i.e., those aged 65+, voted to leave.

The younger generations said that older people were selfish in voting for Bexit. They were selfish because they did not have to worry about their future job prospects.

Many Millennials were upset that their parents and grandparents had ignored their future career prospects when they voted.

The referendum showed that in the UK, there is a wide generation gap.

‘The Generation Gap’ in other languages

‘The Generation Gap’ is a concept that people all over the world talk about. Here is the term in different languages: La brecha generacional (Spanish), Der Generationenkonflikt (German), Le fossé des générations (French), Il divario generazionale (Italian), Поколенческий разрыв (Russian), Przepaść pokoleniowa (Polish), पीढ़ीगत अंतर (Hindi), 代沟 (Mandarin Chinese), 代溝 (Cantonese Chinese), 世代間のギャップ (Japanese), Jurang generasi (Indonesian), الفجوة بين الأجيال (Arabic), نسلوں کے درمیان خلا (Urdu), Khoảng cách thế hệ (Vietnamese), O fosso geracional (Portuguese), প্রজন্মের ফারাক (Bengali), Pengo la kizazi (Swahili), 세대 차이 (Korean), Kuşak farkı (Turkish).

Video – What is the Generation Gap?

This educational video, from our sister channel on YouTube – Marketing Business Network, explains what the ‘Generation Gap’ is using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.