There are (at least) three different causes to the differences from generation to generation. Each one of these distinctives is like a new language. While it is possible for an older generation to learn a new language, they will never be as proficient as the natives that grew up with that language as their primary dialect.
The most significant cause to generational differences is technological advances.
Technological Advances – The Printing Press, Radio, Cinematography, Television, Computers, Atari, the Internet, Nintendo, Sega, Personal Computers, World Wide Web, Laptops, X-box, Playstation, Cellphones, PDA’s, Blogging, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, the iPhone, Smart phones, the Kindle, the Wii, the iPad, etc. (This list will be irrelevant within a year.)
There is no set number to the years and length of a generation. In a society where new technology is being introduced every year, the generations will become shorter and shorter. While they might have been 40 years where there aren’t significant technological advances (as you’ll see continually in Judges), the culture we are living in today may have as many as five or six generations living at the same time who can’t relate to each other.
Life Experience – (Going back one century) The Two World Wars, The Great Depression, The British Invasion, The Hippie Movement, The Cold War, The 80’s (LORD let us forget), Y2K, 9/11, The Housing Market Crash, Occupy Wallstreet, etc.
The experiences that you’ve lived through will affect how you view the world. Where were you when JFK was shot? I wasn’t even born. That has no significants on my life, but it might on yours. Do you remember Y2K? 21 year olds don’t. Where were you when the Two Towers fell? I remember that. It’s burned into my memory.
Values are not trans-generational. They develop out of experience and worldview. The values of this generation will not be the same because they did not grow up under the great depression (they throw away a phone they paid $800 for after two years), they didn’t grow up during the cold war (they aren’t afraid of socialist ideas), and they don’t remember 9/11 (they don’t fear terrorism). Your values are your own. You can’t pass down values any more than you can make a kid raised on fish sticks enjoy them as an adult.
Ancestry – The control freaks, the ‘anything goes’ parents, umbrella parents, helicopter parents, divorcees, child abuse, single mothers, single fathers, illegitimate children, abortion, etc.
Believe it or not, your parents have a significant impact on how you think. If they were really strict, you might have rebelled. If they sheltered you, you might be stuck in a past generation unable to relate to your peers. If you were given free reign to do whatever you wanted, you might resent your parents’s lack of involvement or interest in your life.
On a much larger scale you can see how parents typically responded from generation to generation. Baby Boomers were very strict with their children. As a result, those children grew up to be very lenient with their children and encouraged them to pursue their own passions without discretion. These parents grew up to become what the media has dubbed ‘helicopter parents’ for their inability to disengage from their children’s lives. Each parenting group has failed their children in some way, and their children have had drastically different, reactionary parenting styles.
However, parents can have a positive influence on their children as well. Remembering that they aren’t perfect, confessing their faults to their kids, and seeking forgiveness will go a long way with the next generation. Listening before jumping to conclusions will reveal a much deeper layer to why youth do what they do. And remember…
The family the prays together, stays together.
Each generation is unique for different reasons. These different distinctives are often reactionary to the experiences of each generation. Since there are a lot of factors that affect the overall worldview of each generation, we should be sensitive to the fact that the generations who follow us will not think the way we think because they haven’t been shaped in the way we were shaped.
There are several other distinctives that affect generational difference that I have not covered here; Geographical location, Education, Philosophy, Media, etc.
If you can think of any more, please leave them as a comment. I’m still expanding my understanding on what causes generational differences.