United States

The Middle Child

“‘…Most of us have only two or three genuinely interesting moments in our lives, the rest is filler, and that and the end of our lives, most of us will be lucky if any of those moments … form a story that anyone would find remotely interesting'” (Generation).  Over the past century in the United States, generations of people have been formed based on birth year and how they have contributed to the U.S.’s society. Probably the most commonly recognized generations are “The Greatest Generation”, “Baby Boomers”, and “Millennials” (Gen. Y). This is because these generations are given a lot of credit for making change and are recognized for their many accomplishments. One generation that is less thought of as an important generation is Generation X, arguably one of the most underrated generations. They were the first generation where what they accomplished and the ways they created change in society were less obvious. For better explanation, “The Greatest Generation” is known for their contributions to society through World War II, “Baby Boomers” are best known for the Civil Rights Movement, and Millennials are greatly recognized for their continuation of fighting for equality amongst all people. Generation X, on the other hand, didn’t have any significant wars or large political movements during their time. Understanding Generation X is important because gaining an understanding of them comes with a greater understanding of how all generations over the course of U.S. history have shaped society. Generation X, being especially unique to other generations, largely shaped society through instigating a much more conservative form of government and opening doors for more diversity.

Generation X is defined as being born roughly between the years of 1965 and 1980, making everyone born in the age grow up during the Cold War.  They lived their entire childhoods with the threat of Soviet nuclear annihilation. Lock down drills for nuclear blasts were commonplace in schools while Gen X grew up.  Born after the massive population of the Baby Boomers and before the equally as large Millennials, Gen X was the middle child of generations. As their parents were fighting in the war, many rose to protest.  Especially during Vietnam, American households were split on war opinions. This generation lived through a lot of change besides war as well. From analog to digital, their world was changing. In 1975, the first personal computer was invented- the device they would eventually nark their Millennial kids for using too much.  They witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, and some of them the moon landing. Most of them were latchkey kids, kids whose family was not around for a large portion of the day. This led generation X to become a very independent generation. They learned quickly from young ages what was bad and good because of their lack of supervision.

Generation X acts much differently from the the surrounding generations.  While their parents talked of Utopias because of their fathers in World War II, the Gen X kids became a more realistic generation.  Many became quick pessimists, judging all people with the possibility of them being “rotten to the core” (Vanity). While most of them were in their 20s, the stock market crashed, leaving countless people jobless.  Douglas Rushkoff, author of GenX Reader, stated that “’We didn’t believe the same kind of things as boomers. It was much harder to fool us.’”  Because of their “dream big” parents, Generation X became a very down to Earth generation. Down to Earth may be putting it lightly, so as Independent.com states, Generation Xers “include the following: cynicism, alienation, amorality, solipsism, childlessness, pessimism, distrust of institutions, atheism and infantilism” (Barnett).  Generation X is quite different from those surrounding it.

Since Gen X is considered very different from the other generations, they aren’t usually given any credit for attributing the society/the world. But just because they are different, that doesn’t mean they never shaped society.  To get it out of the way, “Gen Xers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths”, (Taylor). In other words, the size of the two generations around them constantly put them under the radar. There are almost two Baby Boomers for every Gen Xer.  In a multitude of demographics, Gen Xers are always smack in the middle. “We transformed the Eighties and we owned the Nineties. We had alcopops and ecstasy and we were fearless and stupid and happy, but we still got up for work on Monday morning, no matter how bad we felt” (Barnett).  They were are fiercely hard workers, and because of that many have the money to take care of their kids and their parents. This generation also was key to instigating women’s rights and LGBT movements. They were there for protests, speeches, and of course, some of them were representatives of those communities.  Generation X helped to shape society.

Generation X deserves more praise than they have gotten.  They survived through the Cold War, witnessed the change from analog to digital, and became the pessimistic realists everyone needs to know.  It is good to learn about past generations. Like history, we can learn from these people, be molded by them, and not make the same mistakes of the past.  Ask your parents, even grandparents about how they were influenced by other generations. If you have a Generation X in your family or know one, ask them about their experiences; perhaps being the “middle child” of generations shaped them or their way of thinking in some way.  It is very interesting to see a different perspective on the world, one that most do not get to see.

Article by Garrett Watkins & Video by Lily Altom 

Works Cited

Barnett, David. “Generation X has the benefit of possessing the best characteristics of both – with none of the downsides.” Independent, 11 Feb. 2017, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/millenials-generation-x-baby-boomers-a7570326.html. Accessed 8 Apr. 2018.

Cohen, Rich. “Why Generation X Might Be Our Last, Best Hope.” Vanity Fair, Sept. 2017, www.vanityfair.com/style/2017/08/why-generation-x-might-be-our-last-best-hope. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.

“Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture Quotes.” Book Pages, Bookrags, www.bookrags.com/studyguide-generation-x/quotes.html#gsc.tab=0. Accessed 12 Apr. 2018.

Illing, Sean. “How the Cold War can explain our current standoff with Russia.” Vox, 1 Mar. 2018, www.vox.com/world/2018/3/1/17045888/putin-russia-cold-war-trump. Accessed 8 Apr. 2018.

Stephey, M.J. “Gen-X: The Ignored Generation?” Time, 16 Apr. 2008, content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1731528,00.html. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.

Taylor, Paul. “Generation X: America’s neglected ‘middle child’.” Pew Research Center, 5 June 2014, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/06/05/generation-x-americas-neglected-middle-child/. Accessed 9 Apr. 2018.

“What motivates Generation X at work: New research.” Oxford Review, a Centre i, www.oxford-review.com/generation-x-motivation/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2018.


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