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Monday, December 31, 2012

Intergenerational Relations in Europe[i]

“Using people’s confidence about discussing personal matters as a litmus test of intergenerational relationships, the survey (cited below) looked at three different contexts, friendships, families, and the workplace.”
“When it comes to friendships, most countries showed that people tend to have friends among people of a similar age and tend to feel more comfortable with their peers.  It is striking that 80 percent of people aged 15 to 24 have no friends in their seventies. The majority of respondents are members of families that contain children or grandchildren between the ages of 15 and 30 and relatives over 70. Across Europe, people feel quite comfortable talking across generations. More people in the UK have family members over 70 than have children or grand children under 30, and 88 percent of respondents talk confidently to both groups, so their family intergenerational contact is positive.”
“In the workplace, perhaps unsurprisingly, all survey respondents had more contact with those in their 20s compared with the over-70s. Those under 64, perhaps predominant in the paid workforce, spend their time with colleagues under 20, while those over 65 – who are perhaps more involved with voluntary work – spend more time with those over 70.”
“If on balance, intergenerational contact seems to be at least modestly promising, most people do not see younger and older and younger people as part of a common group with a shared ethos. Rather, they are seen as two separate groups with distinctive attributes within one community.  Although this is a somewhat negative conclusion the different age groups also regard each other as individuals(led by Croatia and Sweden at of 40 percent, the UK and the European mean of 30 percent, Poland, Estonia and Hungary at about 15 percent), which mitigates a tendency to display prejudice to age groups as a whole.”
“A body of research[ii] had firmly established that a very powerful way to overcome prejudice is to foster close, honest and personal relationships is the key.  We need to be alive to trends which appear to be supportive of age segregation, and seek initiatives which can bring different generations together around issues of shared interest and importance.” 
My wife Elizabeth and I have been working on this goal for several years with our organization ICAL.Ca.  Full name Intergenerational Centre for Action Learning.

[i]  The above material comes from Professor Dominic Abrams et al; The European Research Group on Attitudes to Age,  The data comes from the European Social Survey 2008.  It was published in Marck 2011 by Age UK

[ii] T.F. Pettigrew and L.R. Tropp (2006) “Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes – A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(5): 751-83.

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