The Influence of Music Lyrics on Teens
A study in Journal of Adolescence investigates whether listening to aggressive, sexual, and prosocial lyrics in music influences teens’ behavior one year later. The study shows that teens who listen to aggression in music display more aggressive behavior and less prosocial behavior. Listening to sexual content in music is related to earlier sexual activity and more sexual partners.
- Certain types of music lyrics affect teens’ behavior:
- Listening to aggression in music is related to more aggressive and less prosocial behavior one year later.
- Teens who listen to sexual lyrics in music are more likely to have sexual intercourse at a young age with more sexual partners.
- Listening to prosocial content in music does not affect behavior.
- Parental Advisory - Explicit Content: For parents and caretakers it is important to know that aggressive and sexual lyrics in music can have a negative effect on behavior.
Is listening to aggressive, sexual, and prosocial lyrics in music related to aggressive, sexual and prosocial behavior one year later in teens?
548 teens (mean age: 15 years old; 48% boys)
This study was part of a larger project called the “Flourishing Families Project” about family interactions. Teens filled out a questionnaire at home about their favorite musical artist or bands, their own physical aggression, and their sexual and prosocial behaviors. Afterwards, the songs of the mentioned musical artist or bands were coded for physical aggression, and sexual or prosocial content. One year later, teens filled out the same questions.
Facts and findings
- Teens who listened to aggression in music displayed more aggressive behavior and less prosocial behavior one year later.
- Listening to sexual content in music was related to earlier ages of sexual initiation and higher number of sexual partners one year later in teens.
- There was no effect of listening to prosocial behavior in music on aggressive, sexual, and prosocial behaviors one year later.
- Note of caution: the study cannot completely rule out chicken-or-egg doubts. It is conceivable that teens who have sexual and aggressive tendencies are interested in explicit content at a young age and start displaying the behaviors at a later age.
- Fun fact: The most popular artist or bands were Taylor Swift, Eminem, LilWayne, Justin Bieber, the Beatles, and Adele.