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Sep 28, 2015

Obviously, nothing in human behavior is universal. There are cultural variations that are marked across all of time. I would expect, on average, that a society with Confucian-type hierarchical collective values would see the new generation show more deference and less conflict to their elders. Even if that specific assumption is in fact wrong for any number of sociological or psychodynamic reasons, from conflicts and inequalities

Still, throughout all of history, it is certainly a recurring pattern that the younger generation clashes with the older generation.

There are also good psychological reasons to expect that that would be the case. They include

Ego Formation: We have good developmental psychology reasons to believe that children in general are building their ego and who they are into adolescence. Even in societies where the career of a child may have been effectively chosen for her or him a long time ago, they still found themselves forming their own personality. Fighting against one's elders is how one marks oneself as distinct.

Social Advancement: Whether one is talking about competitive institutions where the young want to overthrow the old guard, or just about the progress of science and values, there are inevitable differences across generations. Today, the young often find themselves having to explain the basics of social media or computer technology to the older generations. That causes frustration. When it's just explaining to Grandma how to post on Facebook, that's just mild annoyance. But when a young business major is trying to get a company to embrace a social media strategy, real money and opportunity can be on the line.

Similarly, institutions like seniority and tenure can cause conflicts between the older groups who believe that their contributions may be being underrated to the younger groups who want to advance up the ladder.

Frontal Lobe Development: The frontal lobe in most people doesn't stop growing until substantially into the twenties. That causes the young to be willing to take risks that the older generation, or even their immediate peers just a little further along in their age group, are unwilling to take.

For these reasons amongst others, we have good reason to believe that some degree of intergenerational conflict will always occur. To some extent, this conflict is a positive expression of balance.

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