Perceptions and facts

Venturing into generational comparisons based on one’s own experience is therefore perilous. But these perceptions, if they are biased, are they necessarily false? Are there facts that exist to determine whether young people are better or worse than their elders?


Sociologist Jacques Hamel notes that there are few complaints against young people in the archives before the 1960s. “When we talk about this era of rural Quebec, young people were considered a work force. They were forced, in a way, to work alongside their parents, for example on the family land. » The perception of “young people who don’t want to work” was undoubtedly strengthened in the 1960s. “At that time, young people no longer wanted to work in the sense that they no longer wanted to take their parents’ jobs, especially at workers. » In the 1980s, the stereotype of the less hard-working young person was expressed in the very different context of an economic crisis. “Employment had become precarious,” recalls the sociologist. Hence the desire not to place him at the center of his life. “These young people had seen their parents burn out. They didn’t want to suffer the same fate. » And today, with the labor shortage, it was necessary to adopt a law to prevent adolescents from working too much… “We are faced with a paradox,” observes Jacques Hamel. Young people work a lot, except that work has taken over the private sphere. » Hence the desire of young people to work on their terms, with more flexibility.

Reading and culture

If we talk about books, the perception that “young people read less” is not false. In 2009, young Quebecers aged 25 to 34 were slightly less likely to say they read than those who were the same age in 1979 – the baby boomers. On the other hand, these millennials were more numerous than the young people of 1999 (from Generation X) to say they read books, magazines and newspapers. For other cultural activities, more young millennials than young people from other generations visited a bookstore, library or museum. Note that a new comparative survey of cultural practices (1979-2014) should be made public next year by the Institute of Statistics of Quebec.

Source : Survey on cultural practices in Quebec – Cultural practices according to the generation of baby boomers and young people aged 25 to 34 from 1979 to 2009


Stupider are today’s young people? No, not really: studies instead show that the average level of intelligence increases from generation to generation. “You know the marshmallow test? asks John Protzko, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Let’s summarize: In the early 1970s, a psychologist at Stanford University presented children with a marshmallow and told them, “I’m going to go to the other room.” If you wait until I get back before eating your marshmallow, I’ll give you two. » The goal is to measure a child’s ability to resist the urge and wait for a greater reward – one sign of intelligence among others. In 2020, Protzko and his team analyzed the results of 50 years of marshmallow distribution. But before carrying out this analysis, they surveyed 260 cognitive development experts. Did they believe that children would become less patient over time? In fact, 84% agreed that children would be just as likely, if not more, to opt for instant gratification. “And it turned out that the kids got better at delaying gratification,” says John Protzko. These results are consistent, according to him, with other studies which show an increase in the intelligence quotient over a period of a century.


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