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psychology and music violence

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    The Effects of Violent Music Content on Teenagers

    Throughout history the human populous has been

    attracted to music. Whether it be part of a ritual, an

    emotional release, religious reasons, or just for

    listening pleasure music has been at the center of our

    society. We have used music to express ourselves, tell

    stories, and let others into our thoughts. However, we

    often wonder whether what we are saying has an effect on

    Recently, in the 1990’s references have often been

    made to link violent and deviant behavior to music and

    certain music genres. Some such genres include but are

    not limited to; heavy metal, rock, death metal, rap,

    gansta rap, industrial, hardcore, and alternative music.

    During the last decade we have seen music lyrics become

    more and more violent and sexually explicit. Experts

    argue that this can cause problems in children and

    adolescents. Studies show that the average teenager

    listens to approximately 40 hours of music in a given

    week. One is to assume that somewhere in the mix a child

    is going to hear something derogatory or objectionable, as

    it has become the norm in todays society. In most music

    today especially rap and heavy metal most of the lyrics

    contain references to violence, sex, and/or drugs. While

    many argue that this is dangerous for children to hear we

    know that a modern day teenager often faces violence,

    drugs, suicide, pregnancy, and other aspects of this

    While we find that lyrics may be dangerous to a child

    we must ask ourselves whether the child fully understands

    and comprehends what the artist is saying. Teenagers

    often do not understand what is being said, in fact in one

    study only 30 percent of those questioned knew the lyrics

    to their favorite songs and they all had varied

    comprehension as to what the message was. It could be

    argued that if the lyrics were not included in the artists

    booklet then the audience would never know what was being

    said. Some lyrics are indeed harsh such as this Nine Inch

    “I am a big man yes I am; and I have a big gun; got

    me a big ole *censored* and I like to have fun; held against

    your forehead I’ll make you suck; you know, just for

    Obviously we cannot interpret this as a positive meaning.

    A sampling of lyrics from Marilyn Manson include “Who says

    date rape isn’t fun,” “…the housewife I will beat..,”

    and “I slit my teenage wrist,” among others. Manson

    concerts are often grounds to bash religion and rip bibles

    while fan chant “we hate love, we love hate.” Other songs

    that have overtones of violence include “slap-a-ho” by

    Dove Shack and another song sung by death metal band

    Cannibal Corpse in which they make reference to

    masturbating with a dead womans head. Avid music lovers

    attest that they words sung in these songs are just words

    and or no different that poetry printed in literature

    books. No studies to date have concluded that listening

    to a song that speaks of death will make a teenager want

    Do these kinds of lyrics breed todays children to be

    killers and to be sexually promiscuous? Yes, and no,

    depending on who you speak to. Listening to music does

    not drive people to kill, and no proof of such has been

    offered. In fact, one teacher speaks of a student who

    wore a Metallica shirt everyday to school and wrote lyrics

    with foul language, but was often seen sitting in the

    front row at Sunday mass with his mother in a nice suit.

    The same people who go out to see Black Sabbath and Motley

    Crue are the same people who handle world finance and

    international affairs, it is just their choice in music.

    Studies that use music videos on the other hand show

    an increased tolerance in deviant behavior among both

    males and females. Music videos add reinforcement to what

    is being heard with the use of visuals. Now an extra

    sense is being used. Videos often exhibit sexual

    innuendo, acts of aggression, and gender stereotypes.

    Studies showed that men have a tolerable attitude as to

    what is violent and what is “too far” in sexual advances.

    Women have less of a tolerance. Studies have also found

    that heavy metal music and gansta rap influence mens

    attitudes towards women and that increased exposure to

    videos containing interpersonal violence against women

    tended to increase men’s acceptance of rape myths such as

    “she was dressing like she wanted it” or “she brought it

    on herself.” In contrast, women’s beliefs decreased and

    they felt that men were coming on too strong and being to

    Another study conducted on college campuses in the

    northwestern United States involved men and women watching

    various music videos and then answering a set of questions

    afterwards. One video was “The Way You Make Me Feel” by

    Michael Jackson which depicts a man stalking a woman who

    then becomes infatuated in his game of pursuit. The other

    was “The Stand” by REM which only showed the band on-stage

    playing instruments. In questions answered after the

    videos men said it was necessary to pursue the woman to

    such an extent while women thought it was annoying and/or

    disturbing. Men scored higher on a attitudes for sexual

    overtones, while surprisingly women scored slightly higher

    on the acceptance of interpersonal violence. The studies

    did conclude that women who were often subjected to

    violent music videos were more accepting of violence than

    those who have not had constant viewing or listening to

    such lyrics and images. It also showed that men had a

    greater acceptance of sexual stereotyping and rape myths

    after being subjected to the videos.

    Many methods of behavior modification have been

    suggested in order to keep this music from causing harm or

    hurting anyone individuals. Many arguments can be made as

    to whether the music should be censored or if it is

    unconstitutional to do. The American Academy of

    Pediatrics recommends different types of behavior

    modification to combat the harmful effects of this music.

    One such idea is as simple as having parents be aware as

    to what their children are listening to, and to discuss

    anything they deem objectionable. This would be a

    positive way to relate emotions to the songs. Another

    idea proposed is labeling of content in compact discs. It

    would be labeled outside as to what the lyrics contained

    (i.e. language, sex, drugs). It has also been suggested

    that groups as well as individuals approach record

    companies, music studies, and artists and ask them to

    consider the ramifications of their music on their

    audience and market it accordingly and in a favorable

    manner. Ideas have been proposed to set up research

    studies to further investigate the effects of explicit

    music on the behavior of teenagers. One of the most

    effective ideas proposed is as simple as people accept

    that this music is an art form and a means of self-

    expression and emotional release and treat it as such.

    Just as with rock and roll and Elvis Presley people will

    always find something wrong with the music that others

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