Intergenerational Communication

Intergenerational communication entails interaction that happens between individuals that are from diverse age groups. A family unit is the best example of how intergenerational communication occurs: communication between grandparent and grandchildren, parent and children, and aunt and niece. Moreover, intergenerational can also occur outside the family unit since any interaction that occurs between a generation x, and an older individual, or a middle-aged person and an older individual is a classification of an intergenerational communication. Even though, it is common, intergenerational communication is susceptible to unsatisfying interpersonal interactions and miscommunication. The occurrence of a miscommunication is because individuals of a different age group have different communication goals, behaviors, and needs. However, it is not due to the fact that they are at different points in their lifespan. In addition, aspects such as social role expectations and age stereotypes are challenges that emerge when satisfying intergenerational communication. The paper focuses on analyzing how factors such as stereotypes, identities, and theories such as communication accommodation contribute to intergenerational communication.

Communication Accommodation Theory 

The theory is significant since it highlights the way in which individuals fine-tune their speech style based on the person they are addressing. A good example is that a person will tend to talk faster when addressing an individual a person that talks faster. In addition, youths might choose to use slang when talking to fellow youths than when talking to a professor. As such, a person will alter his or her speech style when addressing an individual based on the individual’s status or relationship. The theory focuses hugely on persons of the same social status. However, in most occasions, age groups are classified as social groups and as a result it is more than possible to understand certain aspects of interpersonal communication using accommodation communication theory.


According to the theory, the interaction between individuals of different age groups emerges from the concept of overaccomodation. First, accommodation in the communication spectrum entails the state in which generation x accommodate the older generation in their communication. Overaccomodation is the imperative aspect that is widely used and denotes ‘going too far’, especially when accommodating communication needs of an individual. A good example is when a generation x addresses an older individual as if he or she is a baby. In such a case, the theory highlights that the young is not accommodating the older person, but his or her stereotype. The theory further asserts that if a person does not understand the abilities of an individual one aspect he or she will tend to rely on is the stereotype. If a person stereotypes an older person as deaf, then the person will tend to talk louder to the old person. Additionally, if a generation x individual stereotypes an older person as having declining mental speed then the younger individual will adopt a simplified or slower speech style. 

According to communication scholars, overaccomodation can be referred to as secondary baby talk, elderspeak, and patronizing talk. In addition, the adaptation of speech style is most evident when generation x gives instructions to the older targets, the younger person will tend to adapt simpler vocabulary, in addition to a slower speech style. Such speech style is more evident when talking to a stranger, or a generation x talking to his or her grandparents.

The aspect also influences the communication style of age group, and it is the opposite of overaccomodation. This opposite phenomenon entails aspects that will be present when there is communication between individuals of different age group. It occurs when a person does not go far, especially in considering the conversation needs of another partner. A common example of underaccomodation is painful self-disclosure that is adopted by older individuals. On most occasions, it occur when an older person talks about painful happenings in his or her lives, for instance, financial struggles, illness, or bereavement. Painful self-disclosure is more frequent when older individual's converses with a generation x. As a result, when an older person holds a conversation with an individual of generation x, it is somehow difficult for the younger person to cope with the context. In this case, they usually feel embarrassed, and they do not know what to do next and views the older individual as being totally depressed.

Painful self-disclosure breaks a number of rules of a normal communication; as such, it is difficult for the younger generation to cope with it. When an older individual tends to talk about his or her problems, a younger person might be tempted to have a stereotypical assumption that individual’s of such age is likely to communicate in such a manner. Moreover, a generation x individual might think that the older person is depressed, inconsiderate, self-centered, or lonely. On the other hand, young people might also be underaccommodative, especially through the use of slang while communicating to older persons in social settings.

Age identity

Age plays a significant role in communication, especially in the intergenerational context. Age identity entails the sense of group membership and aspects that accompany it basing on an age group. As such, age identity is a considerate aspect in a communication process. Moreover, a significant factor that emerges when talking about identity is the facial aspect in that the way persons view themselves and the way they are viewed matters a lot in a communication. In addition, one of the most significant way in which individuals reveal their age identity in a conversation is by informing others of their age. It is not an easy task to inform other about our age, especially the generation x individuals. However, the pattern changes for older folks whereby age is frequently disclosed when conversing more often.

According to research by Coupland, the reason this is more common to persons of an older generation because it addresses two different functions with close relation to health. First, for persons that suffer from a certain disability or illness, informing other persons about our age can be an accounting factor in that the older generation will understand the reason behind your current problems. Considering the above aspect, when a person acknowledging some weaknesses is not an easy task, and the older generation will tend to do so while referring to their age. According to social scientists, such an aspect is referred to as face threatening situation. As a result, when older persons hold the conversation with individual's of generation x they will tend to use the above technique and disclose their age to the younger generation. As a result, this might help to shape the stereotypic condition of the older generation as when individuals in generation converse with an older person; they will put stereotypic judgment in mind. The approach will shape the way individuals communicate in relation to the aspect of the age group. The age disclosing technique is a significant instance of face protecting that shapes a conversation.

The second function as claimed by Coupland for individual’s that disclose age is the disjunction function. Consider the following extract from a conversation between a young and an old individual: “Even though, am 84 years old, I lead a pretty busy life, I’m not that young… fact I was 84 last January". In the above case, the older is telling a truthful aspect of his life, and he or she wants the listener to understand that his or her old age does not deter him from being busy. In such a case, the idea about 84-year-olds changes, which is disjunctive in nature in that a typical expectation about an individual that is 84-year-old, is opposite. As such, when an individual of a younger generation such as generation x, will adopt a different conversation style different when addressing an old individual that is sick or depressed.

The age disclosure aspect is interesting in that it reveals that age is like a resource that can be adapted in a conversation by a person of an old age to enhance or protect the facial aspect. In addition, it is evident that the older generation does not disclose age anyhow, but they do so strategically when they see the need. In addition, another significant aspect is using age as a disjunction, or accounting aspect in that the younger generation will be led to believe that the reason for the way the older generation communicates is because they have health problems.

The Communication Predicament of Aging Model 

The model captures the idea of overaccomodation in a different angle. It argues that the perceiving to age activates a stereotypical view related to age, which influences individual's decision regarding communication. A common concern is that any negative stereotypes will result to over accommodation and result to an issue referred to as ‘modified speech behavior' directed towards older individuals. In addition, the model presents that patronizing or overaccomodative communication style constrains the older aged in a conversation. In such a case, if a generation x is talking to an older individual as if the person is a 5-year-old, it will be difficult for the older person to display intellectual prowess. Consequently, older persons are also faced with the significant dilemma when young adults want them to converse in that manner. Nevertheless, they have many options, for instance, they might choose to ignore it, or respond, which might indicate acceptance, and in addition, they might decide to reject it.

The model highlights that overaccommodative speech and related constraints usually have negative effects on older persons. According to communicating researchers such as Ellen Ryan, when individuals hear a person being patronized they will adopt a concept referred to as ‘blame the victim effect’. In this case, the third party person automatically draws the impression that the individual has the cognitive deficiency in a certain way, even if they do not know that individual. In addition, the old person being patronized will feel less competent, and the act might damage their self-esteem. On the other hand, if an old individual is patronized publicly, there is a great tendency that another person will tend to follow suit as the approach that will shape the way the person is addressed by others. 

The move limits older individuals communicative options in that they cannot communicate effectively with the younger generation. Consequently, the older generation will put in mind that they deserve to be patronized. One the generation buys such an idea, they will behave in a manner that is consistent with a stereotypic view of them. As such, the older persons will have reinforced the stereotype, which will be adopted by most individuals. In this case, the concept is simple in that treat a person as though he or she is incompetent or impaired, and as time goes, the person will automatically become incompetent and impaired. Sardonically, some aspects of patronizing style are significant to a number of old individuals in that it will help them comprehend. For example, placing stress, reducing grammatical complexity, and elaborating on meaning will aid in comprehension.


In conclusion, it is evident that there are a number of factors that influences intergenerational communication. These factors might have both a negative and positive effect to persons of different age group. Such factors that influence the communication process as per the age group include identities and stereotypic view of the old person. Identity and Stereotype aspects have a huge impact on the old person, which tends to sideline such individuals during a communication process by the younger generation. In addition, the communication accommodation theory also shapes the communication process between intergenerational persons, but mostly in a positive way. From all the highlighted factors, it is evident that communication predicament between intergenerational is due to changes in physical, social and psychology of aging men and women in a society.

Oct 25, 2019 in Communications
Interdisciplinary Relationships
Ratio Analysis 

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