Why is there such a big rivalry between generations?

Before we get into the rivalry that seems to exist between the generations we first have to take a look at them all separately and see if any events affected their generations. We’re going to be comparing four different generations here, from the years of 1946 to 2010.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

This generation is a direct result of the post-World War II baby boom. This baby boom was often described as a ‘shockwave’ and baby boomers are often parents to late Gen Xer’s and Millennials. As there were so many born around this time, in the 1960s and 1970s many had entered their teens and were young adults. As they say, there is power in numbers and baby boomers were the generation to change the rhetoric, bringing in the counterculture of the 1960s.

That was just in the west. In China, baby boomers lived through the Cultural Revolution and were subject to the one-child policy. Baby boomers were a generation that saw a massive change in society and education around the world. This generation expected the world becoming a better place.

Generation X (1965-1980)

Most of this generation are the children of the Silent Generation and early boomers. As they were children in the 1970s and 1980s, during a time of social change and values, they were sometimes referred to as the ‘latchkey generation’ due to the reduced adult supervision compared to the previous generations. This was a direct result of the increase in divorce rates and their mother’s joining the workforce at a higher rate.

Interestingly enough this generation was often considered slackers, cynical, and disaffected.  This generation lived through the AID’s epidemic and sex education was brought into schools, which taught that sex could kill you.  In Russia, Gen X was sometimes considered ‘the last soviet children’, whereas in the UK they were considered ‘Thatcher’s children’. This generation was the first to see a large number of them attending post-secondary education.

Millennials (1981-1996)

Millennials are also known as Generation Y and are the children of baby boomers and later Gen Xer’s. This generation is marked by elevated usage and familiarity with the internet, mobile phones, and social media. Millennials have been affected by both The Great Recession and the Coronavirus recession as both have caused high levels of unemployment.

Millennials are the generation that remembers a childhood without technology and also the fast growth of technology. It is this reason that they are sometimes referred to as ‘digital natives’.

Generation Z (1996-2010)

Gen Z are the children of Generation X and some older Millennials. Despite also being considered ‘digital natives’ this generation is not necessarily digital literate. Compared to other generations, they are less likely to take risks, have lower rates of teen pregnancies, and are more concerned with their academics and job prospects. They are more prone to mental health issues which is a result of social isolation in the form of using technology and not having a healthy relationship with it.

The rivalry between the Generations

Now let’s look at the rivalry between all of these generations. It is human nature to compare. If you speak to anyone from baby boomers or Gen x it won’t be long before you hear ‘when I was your age’. It’s a sure thing to get an instant eye-roll but unfortunately, there is some substance behind what they say. Baby boomers and Gen X both lived in a time of extreme social change and also in a time where Ireland, in particular, had a strong working culture. It was the norm for children to go to work and hand their wages over to their parents when they got home. It was also normal for the parent’s word to be law. Once you get to the Millennials and Gen Z, that narrative changes. The rise of the internet meant that children were now more connected than ever and were seeing different opinions outside their home, town, and even country.

The Struggle of Millennials

The rise of technology also meant that it was easier than ever to get a job done, office work became the norm as everyday life became more digital and mental health now became something that was spoken about openly. It also meant that Baby boomers and Gen X found Millennials, in particular, to be lazy. This created the narrative of the ‘lazy Millennials’.


Just using Google autofill these are the options that come up. It does not paint a good picture of Millennials. 

This is just one example of the rivalry, though. If you use autofill for any of the generations it will bring up options like this. One of the autofill’s for Gen X is ‘Why are Gen X called Karen’.

The rise of Karen

The name ‘Karen’ is applied to anyone – generally from Gen X- who are, for lack of better words, entitled. These are the women that often demand beyond the scope of what is necessary or appropriate. It is a common stereotype of a white woman who uses her privilege to demand their way at the expense of others. There are many examples of ‘Karen’ videos on the internet. These are usually the people that hate on the other generations the most and like to call Millennials and Gen Zer’s lazy. It is for this reason that Gen X is considered the rudest generation.

Millennials Vs Gen Z

This one is up for debate. Many would consider it to be a Millennials versus Gen Z, and there are a lot of TikTok’s of Gen Z making fun of Millennials. Luckily Millennials didn’t care. To many, these two generations are often intertwined but there is an easy way to tell them apart (besides age). Millennials are idealistic while Gen Z is pragmatic. Millennials grew up during the boom, thinking that they had that security, while Gen Z grew up during a recession, knowing that a lot of possibilities were closed to them.  

I know a lot of Millennials might not want to hear it but the youngest Millennial is now 24. They are stuck between two generations that find fault with their generation for things out of their control. Each generation has their own struggles and there will always be a rivalry and a sense of superiority with older generations. At the moment Millennials are getting the brunt of the criticism but it will soon move onto another generation the older the Millennials get.

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Katie Boland
Katie Boland

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