A difference in opinions, values, attitudes and lifestyle among people of different ages is called 'generation gap'. Due to these differences, people belonging to different generations find themselves unable to relate to each other.
This communication gap between successive generations is not a new phenomenon. Parents and children across the world have been facing this problem. Due to fast-paced modern lifestyles, parents and children hardly find time together. The children, thus unable to express their thoughts and ideas to their parents, turn to friends for advice who are as inexperienced as they are.
Today's children are born into a competitive world and have a struggle to get every thing. Many a time their true potential gets overshadowed in the rat race. Parents- burdened by the expectations of the society- end up forcing certain subjects and careers and lives that their parents have chosen for them, children are left lost and confused.
Parents, on the other hand, feel that in this rapidly changing society where everyone is so self-centered, it is their duty to protect their children. Parents tend to feel that their children require guidance. This cannot be denied. But their constant monitoring makes children feel oppressed and they tend to turn rebellious.
It is essential for parents to talk to their children and treat them as individuals. To be forever treated as child can be irritating and sometimes even humiliating. Children, in turn, must reciprocate with due respect and attention. Matters such as career, lifestyle and sensitive issues like freedom of choice of friends must be dealt with carefully and with maturity.
Love and understanding are the best antidotes to this ever-widening generation gap. Only then will children look up to their parents and parents will not be burdened with their guilt of not being there for their children in their hour of need. In this way generation gap can atleast be narrowed, if not completely filled.
In a layman’s language, generation gap means lack of understanding and breakdown of communication between two categories of persons belonging to different age groups. More particularly it refers to a situation arisen in the post-War period in which the middle-aged and the elderly people on one hand and the youth of today on the other find it rather difficult to work in cooperation with each other, and to communicate with each other meaningfully on vital issues affecting both of them as well as other members of the family.
This situation has arisen on account of contrasting views held by people of both groups. They cannot see each other eye to eye on most of the issues due to clash of personalities and difference in age groups. In a nut shell, when an old man and a young person-boy or girl are unable to understand and appreciate each other’s viewpoint, it is said to be the case of generation gap.
It is said that the generation gap started after the Second World War which brought severe economic crisis in all parts of the world. People had to move out of their ancestral places to earn a living. This was the beginning of the breaking of the joint family system in India. When a young man got some regular work in another city or town, he called his wife there and started life as a separate family
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With the breaking up of the joint family started the cult of individualism in which the young man and the old man in the family stuck to their guns and pursued their own objectives in their own respective ways. The partition of India into two separate nations and the bloodshed that followed in the name of religion and nation tore asunder the social fabric. Lakhs of people from either side of the border had to cross to other side and start a new life. Not only the values were changed but also the faiths were shaken. Survival became the most difficult struggle for millions. The young minds at that time formed new values of life. The society was divided along communal lines. Each individual termed life according to his/ her own experiences.
After independence, the focus of the founding fathers of the nation was on rebuilding India as an economically independent country, removing poverty and unemployment. It was a daunting task. The first generation which had to work hard and participate actively in the process of development is said to be more opinionated and adamant in their attitudes and beliefs. They are hard-working and more tolerant of the vagaries of life. There is a bit of pride and self-regard in them which commands respect from others.
The next generation, in comparison is eager and impatient. The people belonging to this class want quick results of their efforts. They can neither wait to get what is due to them, nor can they stand any kind of oppression or unfair treatment. It is believed that this difference in the nature of old generation and the new generation is owing to the fact that while the old generation has seen and borne slavery or at least some of them have lived under the influence of their parents and grandparents who have for most of their lives remained under the British rule.
The younger generation has never known slavery. They are born free and they breathe free. When these two generations discuss important issues, there is invariably a clash of beliefs, attitudes and, above all, nature-developed because of the circumstances that each category has lived in.
With the development of science and technology, the present world is changing very fast, it is believed and rightly so that there have been so many scientific developments during the last two centuries as have not been achieved in the entire history of mankind from the stone age up to the 18th century. The inventions and ideas of yesterday have become outdated, the new beliefs and attitudes have come up in every walk of life. While the young generation has acquired scientific temper, the middle- ageds as well as the old people believe in slow and steady approach to life.
Another effect of development of scientific research has been the increase in longevity. The average human life which used to be around 60 has now crossed 80. Even in the developing countries like India, longevity has reached 75. This means that more people of old age groups between the age of 60 and 80 are around in a family. People of three generations-grandson/ granddaughter, father and mother, and grandfather and grandmother are living together in most families. The approach and attitudes to life of people of 60 plus age are totally different from those of persons in the 30 and 45 age group, while those under the age group below 15 are totally different in actions, beliefs and desires.
The young girls of today are not the shy type of the old times. They don’t hesitate to wear tight fitting clothes like jeans, skivi and low-cut blouses which expose their body. This is the fashion of the day, but the old people in the family do not approve of such a dress. This is another example of generation gap. Between mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law there is an eternal clash. It is in fact the main theme of all our TV serials today. The modern daughter-in-law is a working woman. She is an independent lady with her own ideas and daily routine.
The mother-in-law expects her to do some household chore, which is not possible for her after coming back exhausted from her workplace. There develops a misunderstanding between the two-which may also be called generation gap.
Generation gap is characterised by lack of faith between the people of two generations and, as such has many harmful effects on both the sides. A father distraught with his son’s way of thinking keeps several important things to himself. He takes decision regarding money matters without consulting his son and even keeps such things secret. The son, due to lack of trust may prefer to discuss his problem with his friends rather than his own father.
Thus, the ways of two persons, closely related to each other, but belonging to two different generations, depart. With the passage of time and due to perpetuation of such type of attitude, the gap between them develops into such a wide gulf that it becomes difficult to bridge it. Sometimes this lack of faith develops into a misunderstanding and causes much harm to both the parties.
Generation gap is a negative phenomenon. The society and the country can gain a lot if the generation gap is bridged, and the old and the young persons are able to pool their energies and work in unison to achieve the desired goals in life and to contribute richly to human welfare. If the old persons are willing to give up their rigidity, the feeling of frustration among the youth will be curbed and they would be willingly share the responsibility of nation-building. The old people are naturally more experienced, the responsibility of guiding the youth, therefore, devolves on them.
They should realise that the youth are more emotional and enthusiastic. They need to be motivated to do something instead of being criticized if they make some mistake. The youth on their part should also show more willingness to accept the advice of the elders which is for their own good. Enthusiasm is welcome but rashness and smugness are undesirable. They should know the importance of learning from the experience of the elders-which can only be done through temperance.
Family is the smallest unit of society, and is thus the nucleus of the nation. If the families function harmoniously, they will contribute meaningfully in making a strong and prosperous country.