Popular Music’s Effect On Adolescents

Popular Music’s Effect On Adolescents

Serey Kremer, Contributor

On a first listen, it might seem like Nicki Minaj’s popular song “Anaconda” is simply about sex appeal and promiscuity. But the lyric “he don’t like ‘em boney”  suggests that Minaj was also trying to sing about positive body image and provide commentary on how larger, less boney, women can also be attractive in a culture where being thin is associated with beauty. It may not sound like this because of the crude language used, but ultimately Minaj, and many singers like her, are using music as a means of self expression. Most teenagers enjoy listening to explicit music; because it makes them happy. Parents and other adults, however, are worried that popular songs like this will result in “troubled adolescents.”  This fear is not completely unwarranted. Popular music can expose kids to violence, drugs, and sex, but overall, music has been shown to immensely help the development of adolescents in a variety of ways that only music can— and that in itself outweighs the negatives.

Music plays an important role in the psychological and social aspects of people’s lives. Psychologically, music affects our emotions, stress levels, cognitive performance and motivation (Impact Of Music). Oftentimes a genre of music or a specific song can reflect the type of mood we are in. Additionally, the type of music we choose to listen to could, in some circumstances, relieve stress or increase it. A study found that “playing more upbeat music led to improvements in processing speed, motivation, and an increase in adrenaline, while both upbeat and downbeat music led to benefits in memory” (The Role Of Music). Socially, music stimulates interpersonal relationships in social settings. When people become acquainted with one another, they sometimes use taste in music as a way of evaluating their similarities or differences (The Positive Effects). These are merely a few of the positive benefits music has on all individuals. Some researchers believe, however, the negative effects counter the positives.

Researchers have even gone so far as to attribute credited violent crimes to violent lyrics. In addition, it is widely thought that lyrics about substance abuse encourages adolescents to underestimate the consequences of using these substances (Violent Song Lyrics). They found that aggressive lyrics increase violent thoughts, which have the potential to perpetuate confrontational “behavior and have long-term effects, such as influencing the listeners’ perceptions of society and the formation of violent personalities” (The Role of Music). There have also been studies that state that the “preference for heavy metal music, rap, and associated genres among adolescents must alert us to an increased vulnerability and tendency toward risky behaviors”. The same study argues that violent popular music increases external behaviors like “physical aggression, disobeying rules, cheating, stealing, and destruction of property” (The Role of Music). These are the negatives that come with letting adolescents listen to popular music, but the positive effects of music counterbalance said negatives.

As stated before, the positive effects of music are numerous and there are several others—aesthetic development, identity, and coping—that pertain more specifically to adolescents. Aesthetic appreciation is the appreciation of beauty in life, art, and literature. This is especially important for adolescents because it can help them understand other people, if they grasp what people value aesthetically. During teenage development, one’s identity is formed and music helps them through this transition. Research showed that “music is a source of social cognitive norms that impacts the development of adolescents’ beliefs and values. Music can also be used as a resource to develop a social image for teenagers to shape their friend group, which is referred to as “musical subcultures”. Additionally, for teenage “ethnic minorities, music can be a resource for developing cultural and ethnic identity” (Speaking of Psychology). Like identity, the formation of one’s personality takes place throughout adolescence. Music helps with coping during the adolescent years. Adolescents use music as a means of distraction from saddening emotions, to find comfort and solve problems (The Role of Music).  

Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood into adulthood, in which one’s self conception is heavily changed. Music helps assist them through this transformation. As an adolescent, I listen to music on a daily basis and I know that most my age do the same. I have even heard people say that they “would not know how to survive without music” because music helps keep them at peace. I think that for most people my age this is true.  Though the negative effects compiled by researchers may seem convincing, my belief is that even though popular music does expose teenagers to violence, drugs, and sex, the positive effects of music tip the scale for the better.


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