After schools closed for COVID, most analysis focused on how the quarantine affected young people’s education and economic opportunities. In this brief study, sociologist Jennie Bristow suggests that the major issue could be how the forced break influences the emerging self-image of generation Z, ages 15 to 22. Talking to high school and college students, Bristow shines a harsh light on taking away their education and social ties in the pursuit of safety. Her evocative writing makes sociological theories vivid, while her daughter, Emma Gilland, 16, contributes a candid, ground-level view.
The pandemic lockdown may significantly affect generation Z’s development.
The COVID-19 pandemic transformed everyday life across the globe. Societies suspended activities at schools and universities and compelled citizens to enter lockdown. People faced a potentially life-threatening disease, endured isolation from their friends and family members, and, in many cases, dealt with income loss.
Life in lockdown likely has a special, harsh impact on the teenagers and young adults of generation Z, those aged 15 to 22. Many stand at the border of adulthood, a time of transition in which young people traditionally gain new understandings of themselves and society. But the time-tested route toward such insights – a path that includes getting a formal education and crafting relationships with others – suddenly vanished into pandemic lockdowns.
Each age cohort develops a distinct “generational consciousness.”
In the 1920s, the Hungarian sociologist Karl Mannheim identified the phenomenon of “generational consciousness,” a feeling of affinity with one’s contemporaries...
Jennie Bristow, an associate of the Center for Parenting Culture Studies, is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her daughter Emma Gilland is a member of the Class of 2020.