New Research: Here's Why 'Kids These Days' Has Been an Old Adage for Centuries

It doesn't look like older generations will stop grumbling about the younger ones anytime soon.
Fabienne Lang

"Kids these days, they have no respect for their elders." "Kids don't read as much as we used to." "Kids today spend too much time on their devices." You've either heard these comments or said them yourself. 

Different versions of these complaints have echoed throughout the centuries, making it seem as though the younger generations will be the demise of the future. 

Now, a new study has looked into why the statement that 'kids these days' has stuck throughout history. Interestingly, it's not at all to do with the kids, but with the adults.


Should we instead call it 'adults these days'?

Two researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, published their study in the journal Science Advances.

During this study, the duo asked adults at random to rate the youth of today. The adults were given three categories to measure them: respect for their elders, intelligence, and reading. 

To begin with, the researchers assessed the participants' personal views on each subject, and following this; they asked them to rate the kids today.

With regards to the 'respect for their elders' matter, it turned out that the adults with a more authoritative stance deemed today's youth as incredibly unrespectful towards their elders.

The answers were similar with regards to reading, with most of the adults believing the younger generations didn't like reading.

However, the answers were less apparent when answering about the kids' intelligence. 

What the researchers discovered was that depending on an adult's perception of their own attributes, they felt the youth were falling short. For instance, if an adult considered themselves an avid reader, they felt that younger kids didn't read as much. 

So, it's you, not me

According to the researchers, these answers point toward some psychological explanations as to why adults believe kids lack respect, intelligence, and literary pursuits. 

Firstly, we judge more harshly in the areas we're good at. Secondly, our memories of our past as kids are skewed.

"We are imposing our current self on the past," said John Protzko, a postdoctoral researcher at U.C. Santa Barbara and co-author of the paper. "We’re sort of idealizing kids of the past."

So now that we understand what is happening, surely we can change our ways? That's easier said than done.

Protzko stated that even awareness couldn't break old habits. "When you talk to people about it, they always like to say, ‘Right, but isn’t it objectively true now?’" he said.

The research uncovered that those with less favorable opinions of themselves fell less into the trap of saying 'kids these days.'

Protzko noted that "People that aren’t very intelligent or aren’t very well read or don’t respect authority, they tend not to think kids are so bad."

So before judging today's youth, try and remember that you're reflecting a view of yourself onto them, and that this will keep happening for years to come.

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