Typological and Identifying Characteristics of Generations
Introduction. Little attention has been paid to the study of identifying characteristics of generations in social psychology. This paper: (a) presents a novel view of typological and identifying characteristics of generations within classical (primordial) and non-classical (constructionist) approaches; (b) classifies approaches to defining the ‘generation’ concept; (c) considers the existing criteria for differentiating generations; and (d) discusses the issue of subjective and objective criteria. Within the framework of the classical approach the generation is understood as a large group which identifying characteristics include such constant constructs as: age, historical events of life, and a place in the family. The study presents typologies of generations in Russia, America, and China that differ in their criteria for generational boundaries. It is found that respondents’ identification with their generation does not always correspond to their age. The constructionist approach suggests that the reality of life of generations is changeable and fluid and defines the generation as a non-rigid system which identifying characteristics are hard to fixate. Discourse is an indicator of the fluid identification of generations. The paper concludes with the comparative analysis of the existing typologies of generations.
Methods. The study used the technique for measuring mentality types by V. I. Pishchik and ‘My Adolescence’ free description technique. The study sample was comprised of 300 individual participants (representatives of the ‘transitional’ and ‘informational’ generations).
Results. In brief the research findings indicate that the informational generation is characterized by innovative mentality, while the transitional generation is characterized by both innovative and traditional mentality. The difference between indices of societality and individualism in the analyzed text content is statistically significant. The texts produced by the representatives of the transitional generation mainly contain the problem and the cultural context. The representatives of the informational generation typically enumerate in their texts the facts of life and acquisition of material objects.
Discussion. The classical and non-classical approaches to the problem of generations are considered as two alternatives of knowledge representation. The conclusion is made regarding the prospects of applying the constructionist approach to the psychology of generations.
- The classical approach defines the generation as a poorly structured social group.
- The non-classical approach defines the generation as a form of cultural and collective representations.
- The classical approach suggests that the characteristics identifying generations are stable and passed on from generation to generation.
- From the constructionist point of view the characteristics identifying generations are flexible and unstable and are not transmitted across generations directly.
- The typology of generations has its cultural, social, and historical specific qualities.
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