Teenagers and twenty-somethings have been dubbed the Millennial Generation, or simply Millennials. But what does it mean?

Generation Y definition

The term Millennials generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Perhaps the most commonly used birth range for this group is 1982-2000. The Millennial Generation is also known as Generation Y, because it comes after Generation X — those people between the early 1960s and the 1980s. It has also been called the Peter Pan or Boomerang Generation because of the propensity of some to move back in with their parents, perhaps due to economic constraints, and a growing tendency to delay some of the typical adulthood rites of passage like marriage or starting a career.

The publication Ad Age was one of the first to coin the term "Generation Y," in an editorial in August 1993. But the term didn't age well, and "Millennials" has largely over taken it. But the terms basically mean the same thing. 

Millennials characteristics

Millennials have been characterized in a number of different ways. On the negative side, they've been described as lazy, narcissistic and prone to jump from job to job. The 2008 book "Trophy Kids" by Ron Alsop discusses how many young people have been rewarded for minimal accomplishments (such as mere participation) in competitive sports, and have unrealistic expectations of working life.

A story in Time magazine said polls show that Millennials "want flexible work schedules, more 'me time' on the job, and nearly nonstop feedback and career advice from managers." Another Time story in May 2013 was harsher. Titled "The Me Me Me Generation," it begins: "They’re narcissistic. They’re lazy. They’re coddled. They’re even a bit delusional. Those aren’t just unfounded negative stereotypes about 80 million Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000. They’re backed up by a decade of sociological research."

One 2012 study found Millennials to be "more civically and politically disengaged, more focused on materialistic values, and less concerned about helping the larger community than were GenX (born 1962-1981) and Baby Boomers (born 1946 to about 1961) at the same ages," according to USA Today. "The trend is more of an emphasis on extrinsic values such as money, fame, and image, and less emphasis on intrinsic values such as self-acceptance, group affiliation and community." The study was based on an analysis of two large databases of 9 million high school seniors or entering college students.

They have also been described in positive ways. They are generally regarded as being more open-minded, and more supportive of gay rights and equal rights for minorities. Other positives adjectives to describe them include confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and receptive to new ideas and ways of living.

Generation Me

There is a spirited, if not tiresome, debate about whether Millennials are self-entitled narcissists or open-minded do-gooders; surely the truth lies somewhere in-between. Generally, however, there does seem to be more of an emphasis on the self than in previous generations, one reason why this group has been called Generation Me.

Other scholars have pointed out that the attempt to make generalizations about an entire generation is a futile effort. Further, some have suggested that discussion of "Millennials" tends to focus on mostly white youth from suburban areas, ignoring the unique experience of immigrants and minorities.

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