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Intergenerational Differences

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We live in a society which emphasizes tolerance and respect for difference. It is not uncommon for people in our society to interact with numerous people from many different backgrounds. Members of previous generations were not as likely to cross over ethnic, religious, racial and class boundaries with the same ease as members of current generations. As a result, when contemporary young adults' dating patterns and mate selection patterns are compared with the social norms from their parents' and grandparents' generation, research indicates that people are not only mixing, but are also intermarrying in record numbers. Couples' comments in this study corroborated this latter observation. Participants also repeatedly drew comparisons between their own perceptions of intermarriage, and their parents’ and grandparents’ view. Many of their observations are succinctly described below.

  • Participants repeatedly offered the following observations:
  1. Past generations of Greek Orthodox Christians attended services because the church met their ethnoreligious needs. By comparison, present generations are less likely to be as connected to their ethnic roots.
  2. Many Greek Orthodox Churches are still decidedly ethnocentric entities. However, as each successive generation loses touch with its ethnic background, ethnocentric attitudes are either disappearing or softening.
  3. In the near future, most Greek Orthodox Churches will likely survive as a result of the religious connections their members have, and not because of their members’ ethnic background.
  • While younger married cohorts have a connection to their faith and culture, they are decidedly more likely to mix with non-Greeks than their parents, and their grandparents. Participants speculated that this might be the case because their cultural and religious ties are weaker than previous generation’s ties.
  • Previous generations spoke more Greek, and intermarried with less frequency. Their need to hear English in Church was not as great as it is today. By comparison, many Greek Americans are less likely to speak Greek, and more likely to intermarry. As a result, contemporary congregations that are filled with intermarried couples are less interested in hearing Greek and have a greater need to hear the services celebrated in the vernacular.
  • When compared with previous generations, younger married cohorts are less likely to view the world in ethnocentric and nationalistic terms.
  • Preferences regarding family worship are also different. Previous generations were more likely to childproof the church. Participants speculated that because children could be disruptive, they were sent to Sunday School during liturgy. Baby Boomers and “X”ers are more tolerant of children’s distractions, value family worship and want their children to experience the services with their parents.
  • According to participants’ comments, the primary factors motivating contemporary couples decision to marry are (a) perceived compatibility, and (b) their love for one another. Conversely, respondents stated that their parents, and especially their grandparents, were often not the primary reasons why they married. Many members of previous generations were motivated to marry as a result of family connections and pragmatic concerns such as the size of a perspective bride’s dowry.
  • Participants also stated that they believed their generation had more permission to crossover ethnic and religious boundaries than their parents and grandparents. They stated that previous generations believed that intermarriages were likely to fail because of couple differences. By comparison, contemporary dating partners do not ascribe to this logic. They are less concerned with a person’s religious and cultural background than previous generations. Their interest is more focused on selecting someone who has a similar value system. In relation to these points, participants stated that they were more concerned with selecting someone with a similar Christian value system rather than someone from the same religious and cultural background. They also believed that their mutual love for one another, and their willingness to make their marriage work, would help them resolve any challenges they encountered related to their religious and cultural differences. Current generations place a higher value on other factors. Compatibility issues, and their mutual love for one another, cause them believe that these factors will make their marriages successful. The thought of arranged marriages and, or limiting their search to a certain pool of people seems alien and out of step with today’s societal standards and so, does not cross their minds.
  • Finally, participants stated that they were not was not as likely for them to accept the Church's teachings when compared to previous generations. Intermarried spouses indicated that they would not blindly accept certain rules without a “good, convincing” explanation. They further stated that they were more likely to reject church teachings than previous generations if they perceived them as being harmful to individual, couple and family well-being.