Ask someone about the best decade for music and chances are they’ll look back at their adolescence. Baby boomers believe the greatest music hits were created before 1970. Millennials hold up the 1990s as an exemplar. And for Generation Z, it’s after 2010.
But after conducting a new study on Gen Z’s formative experiences, I’m wondering whether their teenage years might be considerably different—and less positive—than those of previous generations, musical nostalgia notwithstanding.
Gen Zers experience major life milestones much later in life. In previous generations, dating and relationships were quintessential parts of the teen experience. Less so for Gen Z. Fifty-six percent of Gen Z adults say they had a boyfriend or girlfriend as a teenager, compared to 76 percent of Generation X and 78 percent of baby boomers. Young adults today are also less likely to have worked as teens. Eighty-two percent of baby boomers report that they worked a part-time job during their teenage years, compared to only 58 percent of Gen Z.
Only 42 percent of Gen Z men say they participated in outdoor activities like hunting, scouting, and camping as teens—a remarkable 25-point gap between them and their baby boomer counterparts. Involvement in teen sports is also lower among Gen Z men, though Gen Z women report greater participation in youth athletics than women from previous generations.