The curse of Generation Me
By Laura Spinney “YOUNG people are coddled long after they should start learning that they aren’t perfect.” That was the conclusion of HS, a blogger commenting on an article in The New York Times lamenting the state of today’s youth. The trouble with kids, he went on, is that they have an overinflated opinion of themselves because they have been brought up to believe that everything they do is valuable and important. This was no grumpy old codger, but a young man writing about his own generation, those people born between about 1980 and 2000 who have been labelled Generation Y, or Generation Me. As its name suggests, Generation Me has drawn some flak. Its members stand accused of being spoiled, arrogant and narcissistic, with an undeserved sense of entitlement. College professors complain that today’s students demand constant attention. Employers find it hard to stomach the overblown egos of their young recruits, and therapists say they are seeing a new generation of patients depressed because they are unable to live up to their own excessive expectations. Critics argue that the blame lies with the parents, teachers and other adults who have gone out of their way to inflate children’s opinions of themselves from an early age. These are damning allegations that reflect badly not just on Generation Y but also a philosophy about child-rearing that began in the 1980s and is still going strong. If correct, we would need to revise the view that boosting children’s self-esteem is the best way to ensure they reach their full potential. So what is the evidence?