Are Teens Really Lazy & Greedy?

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Teenagers nowadays show a greater desire for nice things, but they don't want to work hard for the money to purchase such goods, new research suggests.

The findings, published today (May 1) in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, may resonate with all the adults who say "kids these days" feel more entitled than past generations.

"Compared to previous generations, recent high-school graduates are more likely to want lots of money and nice things, but less likely to say they're willing to work hard to earn them," said study author Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, in statement. "That type of 'fantasy gap' is consistent with other studies showing a generational increase in narcissism and entitlement."

Me generation

Past studies by Twenge and her colleagues have shown a generational divide in the value of work: younger generations value leisure time more than their elders.

Other research shows that Millenials are more cynical and wary of institutions, but not more self-centered and just as happy.

The study drew results from a national survey from 1976 to 2007 that asked 355,000 high-school seniors about the value they placed on material wealth, as well as their willingness to work for it.

Just 48 percent of 1976 to 1978 seniors said it was very important to have a lot of money, compared with 62 percent of the teenagers between 2005 and 2007.

More than two-thirds of students said it was very important to own a home, compared with just over half in the earliest years of the survey.

Yet their work ethic didn't jive with their emphasis on material wealth. About 39 percent of the more recent graduates said they didn't want to work hard, compared with just 25 percent of the oldest cohort.

The findings have implications for teens, because past research by the study's authors have suggested that placing a high weight on filthy lucre can lead to anxiety and depression.

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Tia Ghose
Managing Editor

Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.