Defining Generations


Sometimes it feel like the generations are getting smaller, or at least the names for the generations are getting named more often. A generation is generally defined as 20-30 years as this is the time it takes one person to grow up and have a new family. After Generation X (1961-1981) the names for generations began to take off. First there was Generation Y (1976-1997). In general, Generation Y is the offspring of Generation X, but since Generation X and Generation Y overlap by five years, both my older brother and I are both Generation X and Generation Y and our parents are part of neither generation. So what generation are my parents?

My parents are Baby Boomers (1946-1964). Generation X, also known as Echo Boomers, Cold War Generation, or Baby Busters, is the offspring of Baby Boomers so by definition my brother and I are from Generation X even though we fall into the potential range of Generation Y. Because our parents were Baby Boomers (the 12th Generation of Americans), we are by default, Generation X (the 13th Generation of Americans). But if I am definitively Generation X, and by definition my children are Generation Y (1976-1997), I had my children seven years too late. So what generation are they and what went wrong?

They are officially Generation Z (2001-2???). Did we skip a generation? Yes and no. To answer this question, we need to defined sub-generations. These are much more specific and this chart does a great job of explaining it. I am a member of either the Baby Busters (1960-1981) who are defined by experiencing Vietnam War/Cold War or a member of the MTV Generation / Boomerang Generation (1974-1985) defined by the Rise of Mass Media/End of the Cold War. Being that those generations overlap by 4 years, I am going to go with the MTV Generation because culturally, that is what I identify most with. What then, is the sub-generation of my parents?

Even though my parents could be considered Baby Boomers, they themselves have never identified with that generation and so I think them better fit to be in Generation Jones (1951-1971) and within the sub-generation called Beat Generation. Beats are considered the first modern sub-culture, but my parents were not “Beats”. They are simply the lost generation between Baby Boomers and Generation Xers which probably highlights why I feel lost between Generation X and Generation Y. My children’s generation will probably be more defined due to better tracking with technology such as the Internet and the World Wide Web.