Kids These Days

Christine Whelan | Posted on 03/16/10

From helicopter parenting to confusing do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do lessons of financial planning, Millennials are left unsure of how to navigate the very difficult economic reality that awaits post-graduation

Millennial high-school seniors are no more egotistical-and just as happy-as previous generations, find researchers who scoured opinion data from 1976 to 2006.

Surprised? While we all like to complain about the good-for-nothing "kids these days," psychologists suggest that we've just forgotten what it means to be young. Says Michigan State University professor Brent Donnellan

Kids today are like they were 30 years ago -- they're trying to find their place in the world, they're trying to carve out an identity, and it can be difficult... But lots of research shows that the stereotypes of all groups are much more overdrawn than the reality.

The study appears in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science and is culled from the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future survey that has tracked American students' behavior and attitudes for several decades.

Among the other findings, the researchers note that Millennials are more cynical about governments and institutions than pervious generations (a trend that is consistent with the attitudes of the general population regardless of age) and full of high educational expectations for themselves.

Great expectations? Wonderful, but we haven't given them the tools they need for success. From helicopter parenting to confusing do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do lessons of financial planning, Millennials are left unsure of how to navigate the very difficult economic reality that awaits post-graduation - not to mention how to exert some self-control and discipline to accomplish their goals in school.

And it's important to note that the data sample for this study ended in 2006 - before young-adults began to feel the full impact of the recession and unemployment. (And before we had even created some of the worst of the recession slang that's being bantered about, incidentally.)

What would they say now? Millennials are optimistic, but they also feel a bait-and-switch after being told for most of their lives that they were bound for fame and fortune, fabulous in every way. As one young man said to me recently, "it was like, WTF. I mean, what just happened here? The rug just got pulled out from under us and suddenly you want us to become these resilient, frugal people? How?"

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