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Generational differences can be the product of three different but overlapping processes, and it is often difficult to disentangle each from the others. The biological impact of aging and the changing roles that people play as they grow older typically produce changes in attitudes and social behaviors over time.
In short, young people may be different from older people today, but they may well become more like them tomorrow, once they themselves age. Generation differences can be the byproduct of the unique historical circumstances that members of an age cohort experience during adolescence and young adulthood, when awareness of the wider world deepens and personal identities and values systems are being strongly shaped.
Since 1987, the percentage of Americans approving of interracial dating has increased dramatically, from 48% to 83%.
In addition to life cycle and cohort effects, there are also .
The pattern suggests a strong period effect in the direction of greater acceptance of interracial dating.
This changing climate for race relations means that each new cohort came to adulthood more supportive of interracial dating, but the continuing cultural forces also persuaded some individuals to change their views on this topic at some point during adulthood.
These are major events (wars, social movements, scientific or technological breakthroughs) that are likely to have a simultaneous impact on all age groups, though, again, their impact is often greatest among the young because their values and habits are less fixed than those of other age groups.
The most common approach to trying to understand how each of these processes plays out is through , which uses data collected at different times to track changes in the attitudes and behavior of cohorts as they age.
The graph shows the percentage approving of interracial dating for each of four cohorts (or generations), tracking their responses across the 13 separate waves of polling between 19. One is that there is an upward trend in acceptance of interracial dating in most cohorts as time passes.