Gen Alpha, Part 2
I'm a fan of Strauss and Howe's Generational Theory. This theory claims that historically Americans exhibit a fourfold cycle of generational types (starting with our earliest European settlers), and rests on "the idea that people in a particular age group tend to share a distinct set of beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviors because they all grow up and come of age during a particular period in history." (Who footnotes personal blog posts? Just see above link.)
The four generational types that cycle through American history are briefly (and unabashedly cut/pasted from Wiki) as follows:
1. Prophet generations are born near the end of a Crisis: an era in which institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression redirects towards community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group. Since they are born during a time of rejuvenated community life and consensus around a new societal order, Prophets grow up as the increasingly indulged children of this post-Crisis era, come of age as self-absorbed young crusaders of an Awakening, focus on morals and principles in midlife, and emerge as elders guiding another Crisis.
2.Nomad generations are born during an Awakening: a time of social ideals and spiritual agendas, when young adults are passionately attacking the established institutional order. Nomads grow up as under-protected children during this Awakening, come of age as alienated, post-Awakening adults, become pragmatic midlife leaders during a Crisis, and age into resilient post-Crisis elders.
3.Hero generations are born after an Awakening, during an Unraveling, a time of individual pragmatism, self-reliance, and laissez faire. Heroes grow up as increasingly protected post-Awakening children, come of age as team-oriented young optimists during a Crisis, emerge as energetic, overly-confident midlifers, and age into politically powerful elders attacked by another Awakening.
4. Artist generations are born after an Unraveling, during a Crisis, a time when great dangers cut down social and political complexity in favor of public consensus, aggressive institutions, and an ethic of personal sacrifice. Artists grow up overprotected by adults preoccupied with the Crisis, come of age as the socialized and conformist young adults of a post-Crisis world, break out as process-oriented midlife leaders during an Awakening, and age into thoughtful post-Awakening elders.
Since I disagree with Strauss and Howe's depiction of the 20 year span of modern generations (see my mini rant in Part 1 of this post series), I'm borrowing from Mark McCrindle's 15 year span theory for Gen X and down. (See Part 1 if you missed this.)
Here then, are the generation types applied:
1. Greatest Gen b. 1900-1925: Heroes. Came of age during WW2: a Crisis. Rebuilt society as adults.
2. Silent Gen b. 1925-1945: Artists. Born during the great depression: an Unraveling. Clung to societal stability and uniformity with the rise of the Boomer-instigated culture turmoil of 60s & 70s.
3. Baby Boomers b. 1945-1965: Prophets. Born at end of Crisis: WW2 and pushed for societal reinvention as young adults, reacting to their Greatest Gen and older Silent Gen parents' vision of the world. As elders they've been largely responsible for leading the response to 9/11, etc.
4. Gen X b. 1965-1980: Nomads. Pretty much self-explanatory. Latch-key kids neglected by crusading boomer parents. Restless young adults who settle into conventional, pragmatists by midlife.
Here you'll notice that the generational types cycle through again:
1. Gen Y b. 1980-1995: Heroes. children of helicopter Boomer parents who repented from neglecting their older Gen X children. Gen Y came of age during Crisis: 9/11, the wars, the financial collapse, etc
2. Gen Z b. 1995-2010: Artists. Born near a crisis (9/11) Are currently coming of age as the economy is improving. Will probably collaborate with Gen Y as young adults to reach a new societal consensus for stability. Most of the older Gen Zers I know (aka, young co-workers and a sibling) are conformists.
3. Gen Alpha b. 2010-2025: Prophets. An echo of Boomers?? More on this in the next post.
4. Gen Beta?? b. 2025- ?: Nomads. Um, Gen X repeat? Born with a chip on their shoulder?
Even with cycles, each generation expresses their "type" in their own way. While Gen Y is a Hero generation like Greatest Gen, Gen Y has embodied its civic response as young adults to 9/11 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq differently than Greatest Gen embraced its role in fighting during WW2 as young adults. Yet they both responded as a collective to a national threat and optimistically, although slowly rebuilt society.
So what does this say about what Gen Alpha might be like? Check out Gen Alpha, Part 3, the next post. (Yes, all this context was really necessary.) :)