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20-Somethings: Generation Of The Coddled And Entitled?

Is the "everybody-gets-a-trophy generation” more narcissistic than those before them?

“Unlike many of their boomer parents, millennials are not changing the world through calls for revolution and political movements. But like the boomers, observers of this generation say millennials have made a loud entrance onto the national stage. So what does it mean to be a millennial?”

Diane Rehm posed that question to guests Monday during her regular radio show produced by member-supported WAMU 88.5 in Washington DC.

Millennials, generally defined as adults between the ages of 18 to 33, may have morals and values that seem different to those of previous generations, and questions were raised Monday during Rehm's show as to whether they feel entitled.

Rehm’s guest millennials said they felt let down by society. After growing up in the prosperous 1990s and then coming of age as the economy collapsed, some said they were duped.

“It's not entitlement when someone makes a promise to you and then as a society fails to live up to the promise of what they told you your world was going to be like,” David Burstein told Rehm, adding that society didn't keep "the promises that they made to this generation.”

Rehm asked rhetorically, “Of course you've heard the statement from many people that there are no guarantees in this life.”

The younger generation agreed with Rehm, but on the issue of college debt they held their ground, saying the current U.S. system of student loans creates a have and have-not class system: Wealthy parents pay for their kids’ college education, less affluent students take out loans and are saddled with debt after graduation, they argued.

Twenty-something Hannah Seligson said student debt among the have-nots “is unconscionable” and “a true scandal.”

Rehm asked Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center for his opinion on whether such thinking was “entitled.”

“ … Psychologists who look at personality attributes have suggested that there is some level of narcissism in this generation that's higher than previous generations," Taylor said. "If I were to locate a proximate cause of that I think I might go to the parenting styles of this generation. There's been a lot of literature on this generation was raised as a pretty coddled generation. The everybody-gets-a-trophy generation.”

Still, the millennials may have a lot to offer in terms of forward thinking, it was suggested on Rehm’s show. The generation seems far less concerned about social issues like gay marriage and interracial marriage. Also, without jobs and with mounting student debt, the younger generation is being forced to think in entrepreneurial ways, rather than finding a job through an employer, it was suggested.

And digital technology may be where many turn.

“The millennial generation is the first generation of digital natives,” Taylor said. “For this generation, of course, it's the only world they've ever known, and they are able to adapt to it and take it to places that the rest of us will be chasing them.”

Click here to listen to the full show or read the full transcript.

Joy February 21, 2013 at 05:15 PM
You obviously didn't live in my house! I had plenty of chores (as do my kids). But I agree, things have changed. The pricing of "big purchases" was much more realistic. Debt was incurred only in extreme circumstances, or for major purchases -- like a mortgage. Who's to blame for this change?
Susan Marsh February 21, 2013 at 07:12 PM
I think Joy made some excellent points as have many others. There are far too many generalization in this article, on this subject. I think most of us can agree, right now things are really tough, especially on kids getting out of college right now. I am the mother of 3 "kids" in this age group. I think we did our kids a disservice by the "everyone's a winner" attitude. This is not the fault of the young people today, it is just a fact, a lot of them do not have the patience or stick to it ness of previous generations (especially the kids born after 1999). Everything is at their fingertips, available without thought, planning or much effort. Where I had to go to the library and read dozens of books to do a report, now I can "google it". I don't even have to read entire article, I can refine my search. I don't have to know the names of the streets in my city or learn to read a map. I have GPS or my phone can read me the directions (if I am poor I can google or quest for directions before I leave home). I don't have to go to the library to look for books or reserve books I want to check out, I down load them to computer or hand held device. My device stores the books so I don't even have to clean off my book shelf to make room for books. We have trained the kids to expect things immediately, for things to be available. We have neglected to teach patience and determination (once again, we should stop generalizing).
tom February 23, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Today Einstein and Jefferson would be diagnosed with A D D and drugged out of their skull.
SPB February 26, 2013 at 08:39 PM
I don't know. I seem to run into baby boomers on a daily basis who don't understand what socialism is. I think stupidity is prevalent across the age spectrum.

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