The life and times of Australia's Baby Boomer generation

What Is A Baby Boomer?

Stated very simply, the sociologists and the media define Baby Boomers as those born between (and including) 1946 and 1964 (there is no law so stating; and other boundaries have been suggested, but this is the time frame most commonly used). They are the children of people who were married after World War II, or the children of those married prior to or during the war but had withheld starting their families until the conflict was over. Without them, Australia's population would not have doubled during the last forty years of the 20th century. In 2006, Baby Boomers were those of the population aged between 42 and 60. In that year they represented about 29% of the population of the Western world. In Canada, they are sometimes known as "Boomies", in Britain, they are alternately known as "the Bulge."

The 1960s is the decade that defined Baby Boomers. The music, events and social changes of that decade made a permanent impression on them and they on it. Those born during the "peak" boomer years, 1950 to 1956, were in their formative years during the sixties. So many changes took place during that decade, how old one was during it greatly affected how one turned out. 1961 was a whole lot different to 1969. Those born at the beginning of the Baby Boomer spectrum were in their early 20s by 1970. The deaths of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King; the Vietnam War; the era of peace, love and flower power had deep and lasting impressions on them. Many became hippies or at the very least dabbled in alternative lifestyles, which became the thing to do among the Western world's youth in the latter years of the sixties.

Those born at the other end (after 1956) have little recollection of the assassination of President Kennedy; and were just starting to listen to rock music at the time the Beatles were getting ready to call it a day (1970). They were much more likely to use illegal drugs, often to great and disturbing excess. By comparison, those of a decade earlier generally were still quite conservative at the time they entered their teens. The latter day Baby Boomers were never subjected to the compulsory military service and realities of the Vietnam War that befell their more senior counterparts, and consequently lacked the strong peace-loving, anti-war convictions of their older Bany Boomer brothers and sisters.

Whatever end of the spectrum they were born, statistics show that Baby Boomers are, in the main, committed to marriage, often trying a second or third time following earlier failures. A large number have also married and divorced more than once, but a surprising number are still happily married to their high school sweethearts. Baby Boomers have been widely criticized for their selfishness and their inattention to family needs in favour of career pursuits, but the generation for which divorce is most prevalent is not the Boomers but the generation that preceded them - the Builders. 37% of the adults from that generation (53 to 70 years of age in 2,000) have endured a divorce, compared to 34 percent among Boomers. Numerous Baby Boomers became entrepreneurs early in life and have always worked for themselves; some of these are planning never to retire, however the majority went to work for a company or the government, worked their way up the ladder, generally in the one job or with the one employer, and are now enjoying the fruits of their labours. They bought homes, took out superannuation and are beginning to retire or will retire in a few years to a life of leisure - or embark on a second career.

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Baby Boomer Central is published by Australia On CD. © Stephen Yarrow, 2010.