Bridge the Gap between the Silent Generation and Generation Z


By Adam Balmer, Staff Writer

Syllabus week is over, late nights out with friends are normal again, and procrastination already has no shot of being avoided; the semester is truly underway. Upperclassmen and commuter students alike treat their homes more like hotels just to sleep in, and freshmen, may be grasping, for the first time, their independence.

All too often this current generation of young adults is paired with millennials, blamed for negative current events or predicted to cause crisis in the future. Whether or not that is true about the millennials, most undergraduate level college students make up the beginning of a different generation, known as Generation Z. Whether a student is commuting or not, wanting to stay away from home as much as possible, trying to find freedom from parents or just to be with friends at college, is completely normal.  

However, it is also normal to have independence, but have no idea what to do with it. To be specific, from freshman to senior, this “in-between age” is described by psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, PhD, in a study from 1995 as “emerging adulthood.” Sure, 1995 seems pretty old, but the idea of “emerging adulthood” is just as prevalent today, if not more so.

So for Generation Z, we want independence, but also help in the form of occasional advice, some necessities, or budgeting money? Sounds legit to me!  And interestingly, wanting to stay close to home sometimes is completely normal.

According to an article posted on July 8, 2015 by Generations Expert Amy Lynch, Generation Z is one of the most family oriented generations since the Silent Generation born around World War I. “With Gen Z, we come full circle. Yes, families look different than they did for Silents (The Waltons vs Modern Family), but it’s cool to be tight with Mom and Dad again.”[3]

Lynch does not stop her analysis there: she says that Gen Z kids are problem solvers, less likely to seek a mentor, “more about helping themselves.”  

Finally, she ends by mentioning the optimist nature of Gen Z, comparing resiliency to that of the Silents who had seen the Great Depression and major war.

Think of all the social and political movements started by young adults from many different standpoints. The resilient, problem solver mentality absolutely exists, and seems to be going strong.

Lynch’s reasoning makes sense. “If we look at history, we find that generations actually cycle.” A passionate generation gives birth to a pessimistic one, who then is followed by a DYI generation. “Passionate Boomers, skeptical Gen X, and practical Millennials. And now grounded, pragmatic Gen Z, a predictable throwback to the Silent generation.”[5]

So then, I interviewed four sophomores from geographically and culturally different backgrounds on campus about how they plan to raise their children; in regards to how close they were to their own parents, what rules they may plan on using, and what they learned from their homelife.

The first person I interviewed, Caroline Higgins, represented the aspect of staying close to family. She loves her parents and the way she was raised by them, and when asked, she said she “probably will raise her kids the same way she was raised.”

Billy Stewart did not differ much from the view of Caroline, just making sure to stress that his kids know they live in a safe space, and he wants to be someone his kids can talk to non-superficially.

Lastly, I interviewed Monica Blanchard Debi Das together, and without saying anything hurtful towards their parents, they agreed they would learn from their parents mistakes for the health of their children. Letting their kids be themselves and allowing them to simply be the best versions of themselves is their largest goal.

Overall, the Gen Z “emerging adults” I interviewed the gave evidence of what Lynch said, in comparison to the Silent Generation. A safe space for a child can open up healthy conversation with parents, and while maybe the baby boomers may have moved across the U.S. for work, Gen Z will be family oriented first.

However, most undergraduates in college probably are not thinking about kids yet, so just keep on living in-between total independence and needing help with every aspect of life. And for any “emerging adults” who have kids, it seems like as a part of Generation Z, you are going to do great.

[1] Munsey, Christopher. “Emerging Adults: The in-between Age.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, June 2006,

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[3] Lynch, Amy. “Gen Z Kids Are Like Their Great-Grandparents. Here’s Why.” Generational Edge, 8, July 2015,

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