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They're 'entitled' to their rioting

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Major riots in several Canadian cities, including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and, most recently, London, Ont., are likely rooted in a self-focus entitlement mindset characteristic in the New Me (Y) Generation, suggests a new study by researchers Jean Twenge and Elise Freeman at San Diego State University and Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia.

The vast majority of riot perpetrators have been adolescents and 20-somethings, members of the Y Generation, those born between 1982 and 2000, the most self-indulgent generation ever documented, prompting some researchers to dub the group the Entitlement Generation.

The massive research, involving young people between 1966 and 2009, confirmed a major ongoing drop in community feeling.

"Only four per cent of Generation Y-ers are genuinely civically and politically engaged," the researchers reported.

Aimlessness is rampant in the group, as well as widespread "lack of concern for others."

"Some of the largest declines have appeared in finding meaning and purpose in life... and in saving the environment," they reported.

Generation Me is a huge element in our social fabric. Its members steadfastly believe the world owes them a cushy living. They are mainly 20-somethings whose youth and adolescence featured excessive parental doting.

"They comprise anyone born after 1970, and especially after 1980," explained Twenge "They are higher in assertiveness, self-liking, narcissistic traits, high expectations, overconfidence, self-centredness, lack of empathy for others and the belief that other people's opinions are rarely important."

According to researcher Andrea Woodell, the entitlement mindset is prominent because members of that generation "have never been told no."

It is a belief system that some researchers think is at the root of the Occupy movement.

"They were raised to believe that it is their right to have everything given to them -- more than any other generation," confirmed the Public Relations Society of America.

According to Twenge, those aged 20 to 29 years are three times more likely to be narcissistic, "and one of the facets of narcissism is the sense that the world owes you something."

Some psychologists think the entitlement ideology was spawned by a generation of adults who presumed children and youth should never be told the truth about their actual abilities or that achieving success might be difficult.

According to researcher Kate Burke at Franklin Pierce University, the parents of the Entitlement Generation wanted to provide their children with an easier life than they themselves had.

"But that produced kids who would rather not work at all than take a job they believe is not luxurious enough for them. And they have no shame in sucking society's economic pool dry," she explained.

Psychologists Kali Trzesniewski and Brent Donnellan reported in the Journal of Personality that "the self-esteem movement, which spawned programs that emphasized feeling good over real accomplishment, was an important factor in shaping the personalities of this generation toward greater entitlement."

"(Current) students admit they want to succeed with the least amount of effort," explained Ken Coates at the University of Waterloo. "There is no easy route to great success... (this generation) has lost touch with that."

A recent University of California study shows that fully one-third of students expect a B grade merely for attending classes; 40 per cent expect a B just for reading assigned texts.

Marshall Grossman at the University of Maryland says students expect a "high grade" even if they accomplish nothing.

"Generation Me has come to expect an easy ride, courtesy of their high school education," Twenge concluded. "High school students of the 2000s get better grades for less work."

The Entitlement Generation feels that what it wants is unconditionally owed to its members because that is how they were raised.

"I see entitlement hurting the work ethic," Woodell concluded.

She explained that when the Entitlement Generation does not get what it wants, "the frustration-aggression hypothesis in social psychology" often ensues.

So when they don't get what they want, they throw a hissy... or riot in the streets.

Robert Alison is a zoologist and freelance writer based in Victoria, B.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2012 A19

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