Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Your Millennial Toolbox: Developing Culturally Competent Strategies for Psychotherapy with Men

Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Your Millennial Toolbox: Developing Culturally Competent Strategies for Psychotherapy with Men

Article excerpt

Although there is some give and take regarding when the millennial generation begins (Howe & Strauss, 2003), there is much more agreement on this age distinction than there is regarding characteristics about the generation as a whole. Much of the early literature in the field found that this generation was not only selfish but was also narcissistic and entitled. Concern regarding overindulgent parents and their compulsion to relay a continuous loop of self-esteem building affirmation, both verbally and in the form of trophies and awards, served to create a picture of a generation that was self-indulgent and unaware of the sacrifices provided by their parents and generations past (Twenge & Foster, 2010). These concerns became common credo among those in education, media, and business. It was accepted that this was a generation on a path that was problematic.

What was accepted as cannon is now a lot less certain. Examination of some of the tools used to assess this generation have been brought into question (Arnett, 2013). One of the means by which this generation has been judged to be narcissistic is via use of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Twenge & Foster, 2010). Concerns regarding the validity of the instrument, the sample used as supposedly representative of millennials, and the data showing very limited rise in millennial's narcissism as per previous generations cast concern over whether these extreme views actually are the case (Arnett, 2013). In reality, millennials are not characterologically self-centered, lazy, or narcissistic, and the continued use of that false narrative is not helpful in any way (Arnett, 2013; Thompson & Gregory, 2012), especially when truly representative national samples provide increasing consensus that the earlier negative outlook on this generation was unfounded (Trzesniewski & Donnellan, 2010).

Another area of concern in early research with millennials was the use of almost exclusively university students, ignoring all other groups that fall within this particular age cohort. For example, Fenske (2011) noted five characteristics of millennial students at 2-year colleges: "a. Attached to parents; b. Have elevated expectations of how others' behavior; c. Focused on relationships with others; d. Engaged and preparing for the future; and e. Socially aware" (p. 135). Upon observation, these characteristics are much different than what Twenge (2006) and others have found to be a narcissistic generation and follow closely with what has been noted by Arnett (2013).

If one is locked into previous views of millennials as a narcissistic band of accolade hunters wrapped in entitlement, one might confuse issues such as anxiety and depression in early adulthood as having their genesis in the false narrative provided by overindulgent parents brushing up against a deflating reality (Twenge, 2006). Using this as the context by which their client's suffering finds its origins, a therapist might engage not only in a fruitless quest with the client but also be labeling them as well. Rather, it appears that the difficulties with anxiety and depression that a millennial might be having in early adulthood might be best connected with the identity difficulties that occur in early adulthood (Arnett, 2004). Furthermore, what was described in earlier literature as inflated self-esteem might just be a reservoir by which to get up again after being knocked down by the world (Arnett, 2004). What is clear, however, is that millennials on the whole do not possess effective coping mechanisms that will assist them in dealing with everyday stressors (Bland, Melton, Welle, & Bigham, 2012).

Further myths exist regarding millennials. Thompson and Gregory (2012) note four substantial errors that are commonly made as it relates to the generation. First, that they are disloyal. Sadly, the tragic number of layoffs that have occurred in the recent past is the cause of this confusion. …

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