Generation X: Definition & Characteristics Video

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  • 0:02 Who Is Generation X?
  • 1:21 Characteristics…
  • 2:49 Generation X Today
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrea McKay

Andrea teaches high school AP Psychology and Online Economics and has a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

In this lesson, you will learn how social scientists define a generation. Discover who is a part of Generation X and what characteristics set them apart from other generations.

Who Is Generation X?

What kinds of cultural events shaped your development and identity in your youth? How do you think your attitudes would be different if you had been born 70 years earlier?

It is rather difficult to take an entire generation of people and place them into one category, but labeling people as a part of a specific demographic can be helpful when looking at broad patterns or characteristics of a group. Social scientists define a generation as a group of people born during the same period of time, one descent from the previous generation. The time span of a generation is often considered approximately twenty years.

Generation X is one descent after the Baby Boom generation, which is currently the largest generation. The Baby Boomers were born in the years following World War II, roughly 1944 - 1964. Today, there are approximately 80 million Baby Boomers. Generation X is typically considered to be people born between 1965 and 1980, but some suggest anyone born in the 1960s to be part of Generation X.

Generation X precedes Generation Y, now commonly known as the Millennials. The Millennial generation also boasts large population numbers, with approximately 71 million people identified as Millennials. In contrast, Generation X stands out as being a smaller generation, comprising roughly 44 - 50 million people.

Characteristics Created by Culture

Many social and political changes happened during the time the Generation Xers were coming of age, and those changes contributed to an overall identity for the members of Generation X. One important social change came about as divorce rates peaked in the 1980s, and many women, married or divorced, entered the workforce. Having two working parents created a 'latchkey' environment for the generation, when students would come home to an empty house with parents still at work. Young Generation Xers then were expected to take care of themselves in many ways until their parents returned home in the evenings.

Generation X was once thought to be a generation of 'slackers,' as the influence of multiple television stations, video games, and computers came to be a large part of their cultural identity. The 'grunge' movement in the late 1980s and 1990s aided in that stereotyping, as hordes of Generation Xers took to wearing baggy plaid shirts, combat boots, and messy hair as they voiced their angst in the music genre.

The following are some of the cultural events that shaped the development and identity of Generation X throughout their lives:

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