Fear is in the air!

On a holiday where we practice fear, I thought it might be interesting to see how different generations viewed fear as they became adults. What’s the same? What’s different? For:

  • Traditionalists – born before 1941
  • Baby Boomers – born 1941-1964
  • GenXers – born 1965- 1979
  • Millennials – born 1980- 2000

So I very (ahem) scientifically asked on my facebook page:

I got 37 responses, so my study wasn’t scientific, but it might be a representative sample of my closest followers. I wanted to compare each generation as they were embarking on adulthood. I had two responses from Traditionalists, nine from Baby Boomers, 14 from GenXers and 12 from Millennials.

I allowed free responses, as opposed to multiple choice, then I batched similar responses by the following topics as the answers rolled in:

  • Family – 8
  • Career – 6
  • Purpose – 5
  • Marriage – 4
  • Military Deployment – 3
  • Death 2
  • Self Worth 2
  • Wrong choices 2
  • Dating -1
  • Student Loan Debt – 1
  • Failure – 1

Some answers were predictable and others were very generation specific. Some surprised me, and others I had expected, seemed to be missing. For instance, I would have thought there was more fear around student loan debt, but there was only one response about it. I would have expected MIllennials to mention terror in schools, but it seems it was eclipsed by the fear of whatever came next in their lives (adulting?).

Here is the predictable vs the surprise answers

  • Family was the highest concern across all generations, but was much more prevalent in Millennials than previous generations.
  • Career was mentioned in the Baby Boomer generation, but was much more important to GenXers.
  • Marriage was not even a concern in the Baby Boomers (the ones who divorced at the rate of 50%), but was much more important in GenX and Millennial generations (the kids who may have suffered through their parents’ divorces)
  • Baby Boomers were the only generation to fear death – premature death.
  • Purpose stayed the same in Boomers and GenX and then tripled in the Millennial generation! Our young adults have high expectations of themselves!
  • Wrong choices were the same across Boomers and GenX, and not a single Millennial feared making a wrong choice.
  • Boomers and Millennials both feared self worth, or not being worthy, but that fear skipped the GenXers in this study.

Here is the one thing that really jumped out at me:

I got two responses from the Traditionalist generation. Neither of them know each other, one is male and one is female. Their response? Military deployment. One from the perspective that she and her children would be living on a military base in Italy to wait while her husband was deployed. The other from the deployed sailor’s perspective: “The day before my 21st birthday, we were sweeping mines in the Pacific Ocean (during WWII). I was afraid I would not see my 21st birthday. We made landfall on my birthday and the entire coast was decimated. I was never very afraid after that.”

Military deployment was not expressed in the Boomer generation. Only once was it mentioned in the GenX generation. And it was not mentioned at all in the Millennial generation.

My conclusions

  • Truly, the traditionalist generation has seen some scary things in WWII that shaped the way they lived and invested in their families.
  • The Boomer was most fearful about family, and that was a healthy fear, because 50% messed that up badly.
  • GenXers’ fears were nearly identical on career and family – which is consistent with their work-life balance philosophy.
  • Millennials’ fear was focused on family and purpose, which is consistent with a generation who wants to change the world.
  • Only one response about failure came in, and that was from a millennial.
  • Fear of making wrong choices existed in the Baby Boomer and GenX generations. Traditionalists did not have a lot of choices. Millennials had a lot of choices, but even more confidence.

What about you? Were your early adult fears addressed here? Let me know if you have another answer that make this little study more complete.

Happy Halloween!

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