Sunday, October 31, 2010

Generation gap and parenting: Depends on gender

You may have noticed on my baby name discussions, there is a debate going on in the baby name community on how masculine a name given to a boy should be. Some think that a boy should be given only a masculine-sounding name that is used virtually only on boys, some think that softer-sounding names are okay as long as their masculine identity is clear, while others (like me) think that androgynous names should remain in consideration for boys. There is less debate on girl's names, as a wide range is already accepted (from very frilly to "no-frills" but clearly female to varying degrees of androgynous names). This is the situation today: half a saeculum as defined by Strauss and Howe (40 years) or so ago it was the opposite: With the feminist movement of the time parents of the day brought the trend of co-opting boy's names into a larger scale, but not much was going on to rock the boat with what they were naming their sons.

The "generation gaps" based on the child's gender which I mentioned above are reflected in other areas besides names as well. At the present, their is more debate on how boys should be raised (how much "gender leeway" they should be given, etc.) but the ideas on raising girls that were up for debate a generation or two ago (when not much was controversial with raising boys) have mostly been settled. This reflects an alternating "generation gap" between the new parent and his/her parents (the child's grandparents): Its strength is somewhat dependent on whether the child in question is a boy or a girl. Right now it's stronger for boys but not as great for girls; 40 years ago it was the opposite. Think about it: if a boy wants a doll, do ballet, etc. you are more likely to get resistance from his grandparents and members of their generation (especially men) than people of the child's or his parent's generation. A generation or two ago girls who wished to pursue "masculine" interests faced similar resistance by the older adults of the time.

The explanation for this is simply because a generation raised in a time when women were expected to stay at home and be housewives (like the Baby Boomers) will have a different outlook than one raised in a time when girls were outpacing boys in school, etc. (like the Millennials). The former types of generations are more likely to react in defining what is acceptable behavior for females but is not as likely to do the same for males (not having many controversies there); the latter are more likely to do the opposite.

As with most of what I post, this is based on my observations and is a generalization of the general population.

1 comment:

  1. My husband and I, who are both Millennials, in fact prefer "softer" boys' names - Ezra, Asher, Jonas, Micah, Ian (and the fact that Ezra and Micah are sometimes used for girls does not bother us). We also want our sons to be sensitive, kind, and not violent. To me, names like Jack, Scott, and Ryder sound more masculine than I want my sons to be.