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What are the long-term psychological effects of growing up in a world where the 9/11 attacks and school shootings drastically restructured your childhood around overblown fears of random violence, where the Great Recession wiped out your parents’ savings, and the historically slow economic recovery hampered your job prospects for a decade, and where you were reminded every single day that the world only has a few years left before climate change makes the planet uninhabitable? And on top of all that, you face massive political polarization, growing racial strife, and COVID-19?

Meet “Generation Disaster,” the subject of a fascinating new book by State University of New York at New Paltz psychologist Karla Vermeulen. Subtitled Coming of Age Post-9/11Generation Disaster is built around a massive national survey of people born between 1990 and 2001. Vermeulen looks at the cumulative impact of being raised in a relentlessly apocalyptic social and political environment, the role that Boomer and Gen X parents and authorities play in stoking anxiety, and how new forms of technology and media have influenced the worldviews of millennials and Generation Z members roughly between the ages of 20 and 30.

In an era of mounting generational hostility, Vermeulen is an essential mediator between older and younger Americans, and her book, Generation Disaster, is a rich, empathetic portrait of a group too often simply—and wrongly—dismissed as weak, lazy, and entitled.

Photo Credits: Karla Vermeulen; People Walking on Urban City Street, Envato Elements; Etienne Tremblay, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Office of Senator Kamala Harris, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Mark kassinos on Unsplash; Nicolas Landemard/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; ImageSpace/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Ronen Tivony/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mark Hertzberg/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; BILL GREENBLATT/UPI/Newscom; Photo by Christopher Ott on Unsplash; Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash; Photo by Ümit Yıldırım on Unsplash; Photo by Yogendra Singh on Unsplash; Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash; Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash; Philwelch, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Rowland Scherman, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Prelinger Archives, via Archive.org; Photo by Alexandre Desane on Unsplash; Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash; Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash; Photo by Jordan on Unsplash; Photo by Marko Beljan on Unsplash; Photo by Holly Mindrup on Unsplash; Photo by Jeff Kingma on Unsplash; Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash; Reason Archives, 1990, 2001; Photo by Joe Woods on Unsplash; Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash; Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash; Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash; Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash; Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash; Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash; Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash; Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash; Photo by Antoine GIRET on Unsplash; Photo by Alexis Antoine on Unsplash; Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash; Photo by Katsiaryna Endruszkiewicz on Unsplash; Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash; Photo by Tanya Pro on Unsplash; Photo by Onur Binay on Unsplash; Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash; Photo by Ma Ti on Unsplash; Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash; Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash; Photo by Ludovic Toinel on Unsplash; Our World in Data; Photo by Bekky Bekks on Unsplash; American Enterprise Institute, Scott Kinship page; Photo by Konstantinos Papadopoulos on Unsplash; Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash; CNP/AdMedia/Newscom; Time magazine, 1987; Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash; Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash; Photo by Ma Ti on Unsplash; Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash; Life Magazine, May 17 1968; Anthony Souffle/TNS/Newscom; Carlos Gonzalez/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mehri Jamshiri/Polaris/Newscom; Alba Cambeiro/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Lev Radin/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

Footage Credit: Isaac Reese and Noor Greene

Music Credits:Wild Cat,” by Ian Post, and “Punch,” by Oliver Michael via Artlist.io

Produced by Regan Taylor; map graphic by Isaac Reese; audio post-production by Ian Keyser



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