In a rapidly aging world, intergenerational conflicts have gained a lot of attention in the media, particularly those opposing Millennials and Baby Boomers. A recent set of studies by Felix Danbold and his co-authors find that these tensions are not just a media fiction, and that the source of these tensions provide valuable information to reduce intergenerational conflicts.
In their studies, the authors find that Millennials and Baby Boomers do express more animosity toward each other than toward other generations. However, the nature of their grievances is distinct. On the one hand, Baby Boomers fear that Millennials’ values, habits, and worldviews are threatening the traditional values Baby Boomers hold dear (what’s called a “symbolic threat”). On the other hand, Millennials feel that Baby Boomer’s delayed transition of power hampers their life prospects (what’s called a “realistic threat”).
While tensions between the two generations are real, the authors are prompt to remind us that generations are artificial groups, with no basis in science. They stress that people should keep in mind that we are not all so different: We have all been young (or will all be old) one day. In fact, the authors find that encouraging Millennials and Baby Boomers to think this way reduced their animosity toward each other.