One of the Interesting Sociological Questions…

…is how a generation as self-sacrificial and willing to endure so much as the Greatest Generation managed to give rise to children so self-absorbed as this, my generation, the Boomers.

Here’s our latest bit of trendiness, a skyrocketing divorce rate. What’s behind it? Boomers deciding “it’s time to really get into my life and think about me as an individual”.

“Wow! That is so uncharacteristic of Generation Narcissus! Blowing off sacred personal responsibility to people who depend on you and going on a personal quest for maximum selfishness? Who could have foreseen that of *this* generation?” said no one, ever.

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  • Years ago, I remember an older fellow telling me that so much of this was actually his generation’s fault. He put it simply: ‘we spoiled them. We grew up with so little, we wanted them to have it all.’ That’s probably close to it.

  • Elaine S.

    Actually, the Greatest Generation might have beaten the Boomers to it in terms of divorce. Some years ago, I read a study by the Barna Research Group about divorce rates over time and what age groups were most likely to be divorced. Turns out that, as of the early 2000s (it might have changed since then), the PARENTS of the Baby Boom generation were MOST likely to have been divorced at some point in their lives. The reason? Many of them married young and hastily either during the war or during the early Baby Boom years (when it was very common for kids to marry right out of high school) and later regretted their decisions. Also, the divorce rate spiked for a few years right after WWII, because many couples who had been apart during the war couldn’t adjust to life together again after the husband came back for various reasons (including, I suspect, what we now call PTSD). Later Boomers and Gen Xers were, believe it or not, less likely than their parents to be divorced — because they are less likely to have gotten married in the first place.

  • Elaine S.

    I may need to make a correction here. I can’t find the original link to the article I’m thinking of, but I did find this reference to what has been dubbed the “Silent Generation” — those born from 1925 to 1945, too young for WWII and therefore not the “Greatest Generation,” but older than Boomers. It is this generation that has the highest divorce rates of all:

    • Actually, it’s all a bit fuzzy if you think about it. For instance, ‘the Greatest Generation’, those in the military during WWII, were probably born in the late teens to early 20s of the 20th century. In fact, their first years would have been during a time of economic upswing, the depression hitting before they were teenagers. Likewise, the older military, those of officer rank, were likely born around the beginning of the century. And those calling the shots, making the big decisions? They were children of the later part of the 19th century. And then you have those who were born around 1930 (1925 would have been old enough to serve in the war), and too young to be in it but were influenced by it. Sometimes I think we overplay the whole [-] Generation label. Most every era has a combination of generations in play at any given moment.

  • …is how a generation as self-sacrificial and willing to endure so much as the Greatest Generation managed to give rise to children so self-absorbed as this, my generation, the Boomers.

    Actually, I think that may be it right there. It’s a paradox of life that sometimes it may be best to be cruel to someone than kind. It’s one of the reasons I think God let’s bad things happen, because frequently it’s the only way to break us of our pride. We may not want to admit it, but unfortunately inspiration isn’t as effective in changing lives as we may want it to be. Sometimes we need negative feedback.

  • Nate

    That video….
    Is it a parody?

    • John C

      Exactly. An SNL skit? An infomercial for this attorney’s divorce mill? I’m surprised the interviewer didn’t post her office phone number on the screen. These are two exquisitely shallow Cosmo Queens. Excuse me, I meant “strong women”.

  • Brian

    transistor radio-50’s
    portable tape recorder-60’s
    boom box-70’s
    walk man-80’s
    cell phones
    not bad in and of themselves…..separate kids from family (content difficult to monitor)…….provide instant gratification…….fake “intimacy”.
    If I bring this up in conversation at work or with friends, they look at me like I’m crackers.
    Facebook plays a part in pretty much every divorce that I have seen in my part of the country (NY tri-state).
    My wife and I recognize that we can’t join Facebook. It would cause big trouble .

    • dpt

      Likely something to this observation…much of our entertainment and how it is accessed lessens the importance of community.

      And at work, I can’t get over the number of colleagues who are incessantly checking messages via their smart phone. I get strange looks for not owning one, but walking around all day glancing towards a handheld seems off too. It is like child with their favorite toy.

    • Scott W.

      Brian I think your are right on the money.

  • Timbot2000

    I dunno Mark, as much as I deplore the boomers, having had to grow up from day 1 constantly in their shadow as a gen-X-er. I have little admiration for the “greatests” either (pace your entry on the atomic bombings above). The my personal experience of the “Greatest” (with notable exceptions like Vonnegut) was a generation of credulous conformists “if the President said it, it must be true”, a trait that also wrought much mischief. After all, it was under their watch, not the boomers, that the Church collapsed, the icons broken and the altars smashed.

  • Ted Seeber

    A late boomer that I recently had to block from my Facebook Profile told me his entire opposition to the sexual teaching of the church was an frumpy old woman in the 1970s keeping him sitting on a cold floor in a gym during a talk on chastity.

    My mind just boggles at the self-absorption. Especially when so many of my friends in the 1980s ended up with twisted, perverted definitions of human sexuality after MTV came out.

  • The truth is the Greatest Generations was scared straight. They experienced WWII and they ran to God. But they didn’t really have the joy-filled, life-giving Christianity that inspires the next generation. So the boomers just didn’t get it. The truth is the modernism of the early 20th century just took a break because of WWII. It picked up where is left off when that generation was gone.

    • Timbot2000

      I disagree, they experienced WWII, and ran to the suburbs. The growth of consumerism and materialism occurred under their watch, they were the ones in power. Same for Roe vs. Wade. It was their generation that treated the Liturgy as their personal plaything and made the horrible 1970 (mis)translations, their theologians (Kung, Schlieebecxx, etc.) that eviscerated the authority of the Church, their bishops and priests that protested Humanae Vitae.

      • PJM

        You might want to read “The Rhine Flows into the Tiber” to understand how the liturgical abuses came about in the 1960s. The WWII generation were of the mindset of “pray, pay and obey” and can hardly be blamed for the liberal bishops and theologians that had infiltrated the Church.

  • lisette

    Boomers have a high divorce rate because the laws were changed in their salad days to betray the institution of marriage. It’s likely to have been the “Greatest Generation” who is at fault for changing the marriage laws because they are the ones who would have been in positions of authority during those years. Is anyone surprised that people blow off their marriages when most states have no-fault, unilateral divorce? Any ordinary contract has more “teeth”, legally speaking, than a marriage. It would be pretty simple to get the divorce rate to drop: bring back fault based divorce. Award the bulk of the marital assets and child custody to the spouse who is innocent, or less at fault. As for those who lie under oath to manipulate the decision in their favor? Throw the book at them for perjury. Suddenly, people will take marriage more seriously.
    In its present state, marriage serves as little more than:
    1) business opportunity for gold diggers
    2) excuse for egotistical women (many of whom already have children or are pregnant) to spend a fortune on virginal white dresses and fancy parties where they play queen for a day
    3) intermediate stage between independent single life and the point where the government takes over and dictates everything from when and where you can see your children to how much you should spend on them to whether or not you can move.
    Why gay people want anything to do with this institution is beyond me. Maybe they think its instability will add drama and spice to their boring lives?

    • John C

      Love your comments, lisette. Perhaps marriage will evolve into just another major consumer event, like buying a new car or a home entertainment system. An opportunity for shallow, narcissistic women and their mothers to spend several months playing out their “Queen for a Day'” fantasies. They might even be able to play the same tawdry game every 5 or 6 years if they’re lucky, and if they can find enough feckless “fiances” to go along with the charade. And let’s not forget that there will be plenty of “counselors at law”, like the sweetheart in the above video, who will gladly help the dissatisfied customer get rid of his or her boring spouse. And just think of the financial bonanza for lawyers when Tom gets tired of Dick, or, even better, when Tom gets tired of Dick and Harry. Everyone gets to follow their bliss, for a substantial fee, of course.

  • SouthCoast

    *shudder* Just had this flashback to some 40 years ago, watching one of the few episodes of SNL I ever watched. The featured performer was the train wreck once known as Judy Collins, screeking “I have to me MEEEE…without YOU.” Feh.

  • A Philosopher

    Divorce rates have been dropping for about 20 years now. One way that divorce rates can drop is for marriages to last longer before ending in divorce. If marriages last longer before ending in divorce, then more of the divorces will happen after age 50. Obviously one would have to give the raw data a more careful analysis, but it’s entirely likely that this is a side effect of a good thing, not a sign of a bad thing.

    • Ted Seeber

      And the other way is to never get married to begin with. I have many contemporaries in my generation who have lived together and raised children without ever bothering to get that license. Some of whom are in fact far more committed than the friends who did.

  • John C

    I have been informed that the phrase “Cosmo Queen” now refers to Yu-Gi-Oh cards. It used to refer to women who read Cosmopolitan Magazine and who emulated the women featured in that publication.

  • Mark R

    There is a provisional and temporary character pervasive throughout society and its institutions. Older religious notice this too in their sphere. An older monk/theology professor, a typically well-balanced Benedictine once remarked that the newer monks do not stay on as long as their brothers in the past (Lots of lay enthusiasts like to blame heterodoxy, and that may be an element, but it would be hard to make that charge without actually knowing them.) Lay people as well do not stay in the same workplace let alone the same profession their whole lives. Average people also have more opportunities open to them that would have been unheard of before 1939…so many that one can experience more than one “life” than one would in the past. People who are able to commit themselves to a lifelong calling must do so without sensing that they are “stuck”.

    • Ted Seeber

      I have never left a workplace willingly- yet in my 16 year career I have had 10 employers. The expectation is against the loyal and committed, these days.

  • Will

    It is sometimes easy to make generalizations about this generation or that generation. Our pastor blames the “1960s” for everything. Who was really in charge in the 1960s? Many baby boomers were still quite young.

  • Marthe Lépine

    I fully agree that the interview above does sound more like advertisement for the services of the lawyer than real information. She is so enthusiastic, so bubbling, about how she can “help” people who want to leave their marriages, that she sounds like some “accident chasing” lawyers I have sometimes seen promoting their services on TV.
    On another note: Several months ago I was at an afternoon coffee meeting with a group of women who meet once a month, sometimes to share conversation, sometimes to listen to a speaker. One of the ladies present had recently turned 80 years old and was planning her 60th wedding celebration. Many of us asked: How did you manage to stay married that long? Well, first of all she did not choose her husband based on some exciting sentimental experience. She married her grade-school best friend! She said that “falling in love” happened later, when she became more familiar with all her husband’s wonderful qualities. As well, they did not seem to have gotten married simply to work at each other’s fulfillment and happiness. She said that they had a “life project” together. Which included maintaining the family farm, which suggests a more traditional background and way of life. I do not know her family much, but from the outside it seems that elderly parents, children and grandchildren make a solidly knit family.
    Maybe the emphasis that used to be put on “romantic love” in the movies and literature consumed by young people of my generation (I just turned 70) has had the deleterious effect of changing the view of love and marriage from a commitment to family life to a relationship between two people, mainly for their respective happiness. It seems to me that the actual “definition” of marriage started to shift long ago, because of this emphasis on romantic love, and from that start, it is only another step (in the wrong direction) to claim that if love and marriage are about the happiness of two people only, why do those two persons have to be of different sexes? Instead of marriage being the start of a life together, it is now viewed as the celebration, the “crowning” in some way, of the relationship between two people, no matter who they are. Just insisting that “marriage should be between a man and a woman” may not be getting deeply enough into the real nature of marriage.