Generation Gaps in Attitudes and Values from the 1970s to the 1990s

Tom W. Smith

in On the Frontier of Adulthood

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780226748894
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226748924 | DOI:
Generation Gaps in Attitudes and Values from the 1970s to the 1990s

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This chapter examines the contemporary transition to adulthood by comparing the current entry generation (those aged eighteen to twenty-four) both to earlier emerging generations and to older age groups at the same point in time. It analyzes the generation gap by focusing on young adults' differences in values, attitudes, and behaviors across time and age groups. This includes attitudes toward abortion, civil liberties, crime, social policy, family and gender roles, and intergroup relations, as well as levels of confidence in political, economic, and social institutions, religious beliefs, and sense of personal and financial well-being. The results show that the generation gap has narrowed from the 1970s to the 1990s. Declines in the generation gap have been largest and most sustained within the areas of abortion, civil liberties, crime, gender roles, sex and sexually explicit materials, and socializing. Smaller and/or shorter-term declines have occurred for confidence in institutions, government spending, intergroup relations, social welfare, suicide/euthanasia, well-being, and work and finances.

Keywords: young adults; adulthood; generation gaps; attitudes; values; religious beliefs; abortion; civil liberties; sex; institutions

Chapter.  14759 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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