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How Certain Music Genres Affect Teens

by C.O. Ryan

For decades, parents have worried that certain kinds of music affect teens in negative ways. Music has a powerful ability to affect a young person’s emotions, influencing how they see the world, themselves and one another. Rap and heavy metal have especially been characterized as having a negative effect on teens. Much research has been done on how different music genres affect teenage listeners.

Classical Music

Studies have shown that classical music can help teens improve their concentration and verbal abilities. In a study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, children and teens who were given classical music training showed better verbal memory than their counterparts who hadn't received the training. For those who continued with their training, their verbal memory continued to improve. Learning to play acoustic instruments has also been shown to improve teens' self-esteem, particularly those diagnosed with disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Heavy Metal

A study by psychology professors at Illinois State University found that after viewing music videos that included violent acts, male undergraduates were more hostile in their behavior toward women, and more likely to view aggressive behavior as positive. Studies have also found that male teens who watched violent rock music videos had more aggressive attitudes toward women in general, than males who were shown nonviolent rock videos.

Hard Core Rap

Researchers have found rap music to show more violence and have more explicit language than other music genres. In an Emory University study, published in the "American Journal of Public Health," black girls between 14 and 18 who viewed hardcore videos for 14 hours a week or more were found “three times more likely to hit a teacher, 2.5 times more likely to get arrested, and 1.5 times more likely to get a sexually transmitted disease, use drugs, or drink alcohol.”

Comparing the Genres: Drug and Alcohol References

The authors of the book “It's Not Only Rock & Roll” found that music gives teens a strong cultural identity, defining how they act, speak and dress. In 2005, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine studied the 279 most popular songs for that year. They found that 9 percent of pop lyrics, 14 percent of rock lyrics, 20 percent of R&B and hip-hop lyrics, 36 percent of country lyrics, and 77 percent of rap lyrics mentioned drugs or alcohol.

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