The definition of “marriageable age” has changed over the generations. Where our grandparents got married at a tender age and had their first child when they were still in their teens, the today’s generation does not even want to think about marriage and children until they have reached their late twenties or thirties. This shift can be attributed to – career aspirations, more choices, ability and freedom to choose, options of living together before formalising the relationship, and most importantly for women, the medical advancements to help with that ticking biological clock.
Impact of the generation gap
The effect of such a generation gap can be, physical, psychological, and to some extent economic.
1. Physical impact
Late pregnancies, especially in the late 30s and beyond are considered to be high-risk. Apart from the myriad of complications that can affect the mother, the child can also be impacted. As the child grows older and steps into his or her teens, the parents are also getting older and can find it difficult to care for the child due to their health issues. It could be a source of constant worry for the parents as to who would take care of their child if they were not around.
2. Economic impact
Even the best-laid financial plans can go haywire if you are not able to sustain your earnings in your later years. By the time your child is stepping into teenage, you could be well on your way to retirement. It could mean that you could be dipping into your savings to fund your child’s education. Your attempt to cut down on some of the expenses could also impact your teen as he or she may not be able to enjoy the same lifestyle as some of their friends, leading to discontentment. Your medical expenses could also go up as you are also getting older and could be suffering from many ailments. With no regular income, taking care of a grownup child could be daunting.
3. Psychological impact
Teen years are highly sensitive and delicate years. One wrong move and it can push a teen onto the path of disaster. Younger parents may find it easier to relate to their children in teens. However, in cases where there is a lot of age gap between the teen and the parents, one can see following issues:
- Difficulty communicating – Both the parties can face this issue; the teens may find it difficult to make their parents understand their point of view and vice-versa. Also, due to the age gap, a teen may not be able to share their problems with his or her parents. As a parent of a teen, you may feel completely out of your comfort zone when dealing with their issues or come to terms with their style of living.
- Parent-child bonding – Too much of age gap between the parents and the child makes it difficult for them to bond at a certain level. There are many activities that an older parent may not be able to do with the child, such as outdoor activities, which can strengthen their bond. Moreover, the parents are more focused on their career and due to their position may need to spend more time in the office, thereby not giving enough time to the child.
- Parenting style – With younger parents, the parenting style can be moderate and be balanced between strict and friendliness. However, with the older parents, the parenting style tends to be at extreme, too lenient or too strict. Some parents in an attempt to seem “cool” can give too much leeway to their children. On the other hand, due to their older thinking style, they can be too strict with teenager leading to a lot of clashes.
- Peer acceptance – Peer acceptance is a big deal in any teenager’s life. A teenage with older, ageing parents may find it embarrassing to introduce the friends to his or her parents, especially if he perceives the friend’s parents to be “young and cool”, due to the fear of mockery by the friends. This could lead to trust, communication, behavioural issues, etc.
- Health issues – Old age brings with it many ailments. Especially in today’s time, when one has hardly any time for exercise due to focus on career and other things, the older parents may find it difficult to keep up with the energy of their teens. For instance, if there are any programs at the school where the parent and child need to participate, older parents may find it difficult to cope up compared to younger parents. This could lead to resentment in the child.
- Guidance – Teen years are very crucial as they form the foundation for the rest of the adult life. During this period, the child is generally confused and is yo-yo-ing between childhood and adulthood. Guidance from the parents who can think at their level, understand their problems, and have enough patience to listen to them, is very critical. Older parents, often find themselves at their wits’ end to understand their teen. Their tantrums can be perceived as childishness or revolt. Due to their own set thinking, older parents find it difficult to change their mindset about the changing times, especially when it comes to fashion trends, digital life, career choices, etc.
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- Generation Gap between Parents and their Children –Choihung — Accessed on May 13, 2017 – http://www.choihung.edu.hk/www.choihung.edu.hk/ch-engl/7BKwokTszKit.pdf
- Warning to older mothers –NHS– Accessed on May 13, 2017 – http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/06June/Pages/WarningToOlderMothers.aspx
- A Sociological Perspective of Generation Gap – IJIRD–Accessed on May 13, 2017 –