Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen X is the generation following Baby Boomers and before Millennials. Having no official name after the Baby Boomer generation, the descendants of Boomers were given the moniker Generation X to symbolize the enigmatic nature of these young people. The term “Gen X” became synonymous with this generation and became the benchmark for naming subsequent ones alphabetically. While Generation Y later adopted the moniker “Millennials,” Generation Z is still frequently referred to as “Gen Z.”
Because this younger age is frequently excluded from the media and public conversation, Gen X is sometimes referred to as the Forgotten age. The voices of Gen Xers are easily drowned out by the two largest generations in human history because they are the generation following Baby Boomers and the generation before Millennials.
The phrase “forgotten generation” can also apply to a time when both parents held down full-time careers. Long hours at the job and little time spent with family were a result of the Baby Boomer generation’s parents’ strong work ethic. Forgotten by their parents, Generation X had to rely on themselves. Gen Xers typically returned home to an empty house. The Forgotten Generation developed a significant portion of their self-reliance while grappling with sentiments of abandonment. The absence of parental involvement also led Gen Xers to question the concern of adults in positions of power. The generational prejudice that Gen Xers are cynical rather than disillusioned by the priorities of preceding generations frequently misinterprets this emotional injury.
The MTV Generation
As the first generation to grow up with the 24-hour music television channel, Gen X have also been referred to as the “MTV generation.”
Children of Generation X sneaked down to the television to view music videos of rap artists and hair bands while the older generations slept. MTV served as YouTube’s Generation X counterpart.
Because Gen Xers were accustomed to forging their own path, the generation that MTV helped to create sought subtle ways to protest by straying from social conventions.
Latchkey Kid Generation
Another Gen X name is the Latchkey Kid Generation because Gen Xers came home to an empty house were the first generation to have their own set of keys. True to their rebellion, many Gen Xers think the Latchkey Generation is a ridiculous nickname made up by the previous generations in an attempt to define them. But being home alone does ring true for Generation X latchkey kids. Gen X may not go down in history as the Latchkey Generation, but people born between 1965 and 1980 certainly remember the secret hiding place of their house key.
Gen X Years
Gen X years range from 1965 to 1980.
Gen X Age Range
Gen Xers are between 43 years old and 58 years old as of 2023 making them the middle generation.
Gen X Characteristics
Generation X characteristics include:
- Self Reliance and Self Motivation
- Mistrust of Authority
- Work-life Balance Pioneers
- Adaptability with technology from growing up during the analog to digital transition
Generation X Historical Events
Gen X Historical Events that impacted this generation while growing up include:
- The AIDS Epidemic
- The Crack Epidemic
- The Transition from Analog to Digital Technology
The AIDS epidemic profoundly impacted Gen X, born roughly between 1965 and 1980. Witnessing its devastating toll during their formative years, Gen Xers experienced heightened awareness of sexual health, a commitment to activism, and destigmatization efforts. This crisis fostered a unique resilience and compassion, shaping their attitudes toward health and social issues.
Crack Cocaine Epidemic
The Crack Epidemic, also called the Cocaine Epidemic, began in the United States in the 1980’s as Gen X entered their teen years. The crack epidemic of the 1980s had a significant impact on Gen X. They grew up amidst its devastating effects, witnessing community struggles, increased crime, and broken families. This experience fueled their resilience, skepticism toward authority, and drive for change, influencing their attitudes, activism, and approach to societal issues.
Gen X Technology
Gen X technology saw a major transformation from analog to digital in electronics. They lived through analog cameras which film to Polaroid instant cameras that would immediately spit out a printed photograph that self developed in a few minutes. These cameras gave rise to the digital cameras installed in every cell phone as well as professional video and photography cameras.
Analog music technology included vinyl records that gave way to another analog tech called audio cassette tapes. Music began to shift to digital CD’s and eventually the iPod and other mp3 players.
The rise of home computing happened as Gen X were just children. The microcomputer revolution began in the 1970’s, including Steve Wozniak development of the Apple II in 1977. This home computer was the predecessor to Apple computers, iPods, iPads, and iPhones.
Baby Boomer Parents – The Parents of Gen X
Gen X was greatly influenced by the choices of their Baby Boomer parents which forged their home lives. From a Generation X perspective, the Baby Boomer parenting style was more hands off. The Beatles song summarized Boomer parenting when they sang “Let it Be”.
Baby Boomer parenting mistakes often come from being so consumed with work that they don’t even know their Gen X children need support until long after a crisis has passed. Many Boomer parents seek a second chance at having a relationship with their Gen X children in retirement as they finally have the time to invest into their family relationships. To their credit, Baby Boomers rebelled against many abusive behaviors that they endured while growing up such as forms of physical and emotional abuse.
As Baby Boomers are entering into retirement, many wish to spend more time with family as a way of catching up on lost time. In hindsight, some Boomers reflect on their parenting mistakes, including not spending enough time with their children growing up. Some Boomer parents wonder why they are ignored by their Gen X children, not realizing that these patterns were set due to demanding work schedules.
First introduced in 1960 as Baby Boomers entered into adulthood saw a reduction in population growth in their children who were mostly Gen X.
Surge of Women in the Workforce
Baby Boomers broke the mold of women being confined to home life. Both mothers and fathers of Gen X worked long hours which impacted the amount of family time for Gen Xers. A strong emphasis on work ethic was set for Generation X children.
Divorce Rate Rises for Baby Boomer Parents
The divorce rate by generation took a steep rise as Baby Boomers broke free of the societal norms of their Silent Generation and Greatest Generation parents. The sexually liberated Boomers were able to pursue their dreams like never before. Women made strides in the workplace, smashing the glass ceiling in corporations. Women could make enough money to leave their husbands which wasn’t possible in the single income homes of the Silent Generation. The hippie generation sought, peace, love and happiness on their own terms.
Generation X were the children in these households that either had parents that worked all the time or divorced parents that lived in separate homes. They grew up alone. Gen X raised themselves and their Baby Boomer parents were good providers financially.
Gen X vs Baby Boomers
The generation gap between Baby Boomers and their children Gen X is based on different formative events, technology shifts, and a difference in values.
Baby Boomers were raised during a time of economic prosperity built on the fossil fuel industry. Boomer parents of Gen Xers were rewarded for their hard work by becoming the richest generation in the world. Women were finally able to enter into high level positions, finding a sense of power and purpose outside of the gender role traditions of the Silent Generation.
The Baby Boomer emphasis on their work lives decreased their family time. This directly impacted the lonely Generation X that had less parent contact then the previous generations. This lead Gen Xers to form their own value of having a balance between home life and work life rather than giving everything to their companies. The MTV generation found ways to occupy themselves which forged an emphasis on self-sufficiency. A potent Gen X mantra became “Why wait for someone to let you down? Just do it yourself?” However, by withdrawing Gen X often struggles to ask for help which can be seen in multi-generational offices.
Gen X vs Millennials
Generation X are the un-credited innovators of work-life balance in response to their Boomer parents that they judged as being “workaholics”. This set the work-life balance trend now emulated in the Millennial Generation who are often given credit for this change because Gen X is so often forgotten in the public discourse. Gen X also started the flannel fashion trend that was adopted by Millennials. However, the Millennial generation added the beards to complete the sexy lumberjack look.
The oldest members of Generation X are often the parents of younger Millennials, although younger Boomers are sometimes the parents of Millennials.
Millennials value collaboration in their personal lives such as on social media or in their work life. They not only strive for work-life balance, but are innovators in sharing responsibilities for a more balanced work environment. Gen X often has to overcome the conditioning of a lonely childhood in order to ask for additional support. Xennials who were born on the cusp of both generations tend to be bridge builders in multi generational teams.
Gen X vs Gen Z
Generation X are mostly the parents of Gen Z children. Like all parent and child relationships, there is a special tension between both Gen X and Gen Z. Gen X had to figure out a lot of life lessons on their own, which includes parenting. Gen Z spend more time on electronic devices and social media than Gen X, making them distant in a similar way to the MTV Generation that zoned out in front of the TV. These are both in stark contrast to the previous generations who were raised with the adage “Children should be seen but not heard.”
While Gen X had more of an inner rebellion while growing up, withdrawing into their self-sufficient inner worlds, Gen Z has more outward expression of what they want to change. Gen Z is a vocal generation that can’t be missed as they stand up for their friends online who are being cyber bullied. As vocal as Gen Z can be on social issues, they often struggle to express the uncomfortable distance many feel with Gen X. Bridging the gap between Gen Xers and Gen Zers will likely take the form of family counseling where an occasion is made to speak face to face.
Gen X Parents
Gen X are the parents of younger Millennials, Gen Z, and the micro-generation Zillennials born on the cusp of Millennials and Gen Z. Their parents are from the Baby Boomer generation.
These characteristics of Gen X parents have some elements of the hands off approach modeled by their Baby Boomer parents. However, Gen X knows how distance can make families distant. Those Gen Xers who have healed enough of their own abandonment also learn to take initiative to engage with Gen Z.
Gen X children weren’t told what to do as often as the previous generations so they tend to avoid being overly bossy to the younger generations. But this distance can communicate a lack of interest, thus repeating certain elements of their own childhood.
Gen X Parenting Style
The Gen X parenting style comes with some effort to have family vacations and dinners. However, Gen Z has been found in Pew Research polls as having less dinners than the older generations. Generation X parents need to take initiative with connecting to their children. Most Generation X parenting problems stem from a lack of knowledge and time shared with their parents. This isn’t to blame their Baby Boomer parents for all of their problems as Boomers faced corporeal punishment, sexism, and physical abuse because there was less legal intervention in the past for domestic violence.
The Generation X parenting style often focuses on what not to do so that the Gen Xers isn’t like their parents. However, reconnecting with what Gen X parents DO want to experience with their children is a much more powerful and effective motivation.
Gen X Wealth
The generational wealth of Gen X makes up 27% of American wealth. Their Baby Boomer parents own 52% of wealth while the younger generations of Millennials and Gen Z have a combined wealth of only 5%.
Most Famous Gen X’ers
Tupac Shakur – Rapper
Kurt Kobain -Singer
Tiger Woods – Golf Player
Angelina Jolie -Actor
Satya Nadella – Microsoft CEO
Elon Musk – Investor
Kobe Bryant – basketball player
Larry Page – Co-founder of Google
Kelly Slater – professional surfer
Salma Hayek – Actor
What is Generation X?
Generation X are the people born between Baby Boomer and Millennials that grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
What years are Gen X and Z?
Gen Xers were born from 1965 to 1980 while Gen Zers were born from 1997 to 2012.
What is Gen X to Millennial?
Gen X are often the parents of younger Millennials and Gen Z.
What is the generation after Baby Boomers?
Gen X is the generation after Baby Boomers born 1965 through 1980.