Generation Snowflake really are more flaky than older people – but don’t tell them, they’ll get upset.
Young adults become ‘distressed’ by labels of entitlement and narcissism, suggests new academic research.
They get upset if they’re labelled more self-centred or oversensitive than older people, according to the study.
All age groups – including millennials (born between 1977-1994) and Generation Z (born between 1995-2012) themselves – believe that they are the most narcissistic and entitled, suggest the findings.
But researchers say that millennials and Generation Z dislike the ‘snowflake’ characterisation, and believe it less than older generations do.
The findings show that teenagers and young adults both ‘believe and react negatively’ to messages that members of their age group are more entitled and narcissistic than other living generations.
The research team said that academic reports and popular literature have contributed to the ‘widespread’ idea that emerging adults – people transitioning from adolescence to adulthood – are more entitled and narcissistic than other age groups.
Whether such labels are accurate is extensively debated among academics, but few have examined how young people react to the labels.
To try and find out, researchers at Bowling Green State University in Ohio conducted three studies.
Participants in the first study included more than 1 000 university undergraduates and 724 people from a variety of age groups in an online crowdsourcing platform.
All of them completed standard measures of personality traits and surveys about relevant stereotypes and opinions.
The results of the first study suggest that emerging adults believe adolescents and members of their own age group are indeed ‘exceptionally’ narcissistic and entitled.
They feel that they are negative traits and they have negative reactions to the labels being applied to their age group, according to the findings.
The crowdsourcing results suggest that older adults’ views of the narcissism and entitlement of teenagers and emerging adults are more exaggerated than the actual views of emerging adults themselves.
In two additional studies, the researchers examined 218 and 376 university students’ reactions to excerpts of written materials describing people aged 18 to 25.
They found that the students reacted negatively to their age group being labelled as narcissistic and entitled, and they reacted with a similar degree of negativity to other ‘undesirable’ labels, such as oversensitivity.
While further studies are needed to confirm and refine the findings, the research team suggest that emerging adults are aware of and believe widespread messages labelling their age group as the most narcissistic and entitled – and that they are ‘somewhat distressed’ by the labels.
Study leader Dr Joshua Grubbs, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University, said: ‘All generations think that the youngest generations – millennials and Generation Z – are the most narcissistic and entitled generations.
‘However, millennials and Generation Z dislike this characterisation and believe it less than older generations do.’
The full findings of the study were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Mental health campaigner Natasha Devon condemned the reports in an article on The Conversation calling for the media to stop the name calling.
Natasha Devon begged the media to recognise the ongoing mental health crisis and the need to challenge stigma, rather than labelling and stigmatising those in need.