Study finds Millennial generation less focused on caring, community, political engagement

By Felix Sarver

Money, image and fame.

These are the values people of the Millennial generation or Generation Y – those born in the 1980s and 1990s – focus on more than any other, according to a March 2012 study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Jean Twenge, one of the authors of the study, said the popular view of the Millennial generation is that they are less focused on caring, community and political engagement than the Baby Boomers and Generation X, according to an American Psychological Association press release.

The proportion of students who valued wealth increased from 45 percent for Baby Boomers to 75 percent for Millennials, according to a freshman survey analyzed for the study. Students who said it was important to keep up to date with political affairs decreased from 50 percent for Baby Boomers to 35 percent for Millennials, according to the same survey.

Kelsey Shockey, vice chairman of the College Republicans, said society seems more selfish, and young people are distracted and are not as civically engaged as older people. Young people may become less distracted and more engaged when they enter the workforce and start to pay taxes, he said.

Twenge said in comparison to future generations, the Baby Boomers look significantly more selfless, according to the APA press release.

Sophomore psychology major Megan Myers said she only puts her needs above others for protective reasons. She said she was raised Catholic and taught to care for others the way she cares for herself.

“There is definitely a big portion of our generation that wants more money, but I think the rest of us are just trying to better than themselves,” Myers said.

In an email, Lisa Finkelstein, associate professor in psychology, said the names of generations and the cutoffs for their birth date is somewhat random.

“They are very culturally bound to historical happenings in the U.S. and the specific groupings don’t always correspond to anything that might explain differences among them,” she said.

Research on generation differences is still somewhat controversial, Finkelstein said. It is impossible to define an entire generation of people as selfish or narcissistic because they differ on many characteristics like personality, demographics and parenting, she said.

“Even if on average the respondents from Generation Y value individualism statistically significantly more than other generations now…it by no means indicates that all Generation Yers are selfish,” Finkelstein said.

People from older generations can be more individualistic or selfish than those from Generation Y, she said.