Topic 1 The enhancement of cultural differences between generations

  • The concept of generation was first used in the social sciences by German sociologist Karl Mannheim in 1928. According to this scholar, what characterizes a generation is that those who are part of it have the same location in social historical space and are exposed to cultural influences of the same kind.
  • A generation, then, is defined as a set of people who, in addition to being born within the same time frame, share common values, attitudes and opinions regarding society. Generations so defined are generally formed when there is a rapid and strong socio-historical change.
  • Although within the social sciences the debate on generational theories is still open and any categorization is not to be considered definitive, the characteristics of the diverse generations can be so different from each other that they meet the definition of ‘different cultures’. Their perspectives, worldview, education and traditions can be fundamentally different.
  • Recognising and accommodating differences between generations increases the possibility of utilising the richness of this diversity and facilitates the management of unnecessary conflicts and stereotypes within multigenerational groups.


Any generalization may inevitably involve limitations, stereotypes and criticism. However, these “labels” can be useful as a starting point in defining some recurring generational differences in multigenerational contexts.

Definitions are not official, there may be different views on their names and range of birth dates, even among different countries. The categorizations most widely used in the media are as follows:

  • BABY BOOMERS (born 1946-1964)
  • GENERATION X (born 1965-1980)
  • GENERATION Y/MILLENNIALS (born 1981-1996)
  • GENERATION ALPHA (born 2013-today)

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

– George Orwell –

Perceived differences between generations when working together mainly relate to core values, communication skills, technical skills, and adaptability to change.

The Generational Differences Chart  provided by West Midland Family Center compares the main characteristics between  the first four generations (Greatest Generation and Silent Generation were merged and defined as Traditionalists), a recent analysis of Cen Z was provided by the Pew Research Center