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Beyond millennials v baby boomers: using kindness to assess generationalism across four age cohorts in Australia

Hookway, N ORCID: 0000-0002-0187-4741 and Woodman, D 2021 , 'Beyond millennials v baby boomers: using kindness to assess generationalism across four age cohorts in Australia' , The Sociological Review, vol. 69, no. 4 , 830–845 , doi: 10.1177/00380261211016280.

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Today’s young people (youth and young adults) are routinely understood in generational terms, constructed as narcissistic and selfish in comparison with their predecessors. Despite announcements of a weakening commitment to values of kindness and generosity, there is little empirical research that examines these trends. The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes shows that young people are more likely to be kind but are less likely to think most Australians are kind. This article investigates this tension using focus groups with Australians of different ages (corresponding to major generational groupings) and drawing on the sociology of generations. To differentiate between generation, period and age/life-cycle effects requires longitudinal methods. However, these qualitative data suggest that a ‘generationalist’ discourse of young people as narcissistic is powerful in Australia and that young people are both internalising and challenging this framing. They appear to be responding to common experiences of growing up with the social and economic uncertainties of an ‘until-further-notice’ world and express strong support for values of kindness and openness to difference.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Hookway, N and Woodman, D
Keywords: young people, ethics, morality, generation, youth, kindness, focus groups
Journal or Publication Title: The Sociological Review
Publisher: Blackwell Publ Ltd
ISSN: 0038-0261
DOI / ID Number: 10.1177/00380261211016280
Copyright Information:

© The Author(s) 2021

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