Date

2017

Department or Program

Sociology

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Thomas Cushman

Abstract

Although ubiquitous in the media, sociological analyses of the Millennial generation are sparse. This thesis places Millennials at the intersection of modernity and generational theories by analyzing the generational identity and coming of age processes of modern young adults in conjunction with the anxieties, insecurities, and existential concerns that accompany their transition into adulthood. Data was collected in Northern California using in-depth interviews with 25 young adults between the ages of 17 and 27. Despite being members of the same generation, their experiences are not easily generalizable due to the increasing importance of identity factors such as race, gender, and social class. Their present life stage – existing between adolescence and adulthood – and upbringing within the fluid context of modernity have led to anxieties, concerns, and fears regarding the uncertainty of their future. These concerns are exacerbated by the constant presence of social media, which leads to comparison and fosters insecurity, competition, and envy. To cope with the anxiety and insecurity of this life stage, many Millennials participate in modern therapeutic culture by prioritizing and openly discussing their emotions. Furthermore, parents play a key role by creating a “safety net” that Millennials believe they can fall into, thereby assuaging some of the fear of failure. Millennials are distinctly modern: they engage in reflexivity, understand their identity both subjectively and socially, and prioritize individualism and diversity.

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