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Influence of Heavy Metal Music on Adolescence (Behavior, Identity, Mood, Regulation, Psychology) Essay

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Updated: Apr 6th, 2019

Studies on adolescence and teenage culture are confined to understanding of teenagers’ needs. Because adolescents have similar concerns and needs and create similar peer groups, music performs the same goals for all of the groups. Being a source of peer group identity, music contrasts either with working class street subculture or with conformist culture in schools.

Accepting the potent impact of music on adolescents’ behavior, identity, and psychology leads to a deeper analysis of the influences of heavy metal music on teenagers’ development. At this point, adolescents’ preoccupation with heavy metal music is found to be harmful in terms of its influence on school achievement, social behavior, and individual differences (Harqreaves & North, 1997).

It has been discovered that heavy metal fans are likely to display delinquent, disrespect, and aggression (Harqreaves & North, 1997). Male heavy metal admirers tend to be more amoral, manipulative, cynical, and hypersexual. Therefore, further and prolonged fascination with this genre of music contributes negatively to teenagers’ experience and increase the extent of alienation and rejection of society.

Regardless of gender differences, both female and male adolescents absorbed with heavy metal music display negative character traits development. Specifically, male fans of heavy metal, therefore, disclose a higher level of reckless behavior, including sexual behavior, driving behavior, and drug use (Arnett, 1991).

They are also reluctant to establish and sustain favorable family relations. Female fans of heavy metal music report reckless behavior in terms of vandalism, shoplifting, drug use, and sexual behavior. They also display lower level of self-esteem (Arnett, 1991). To understand the connection between musical preferences and adolescent behavior, specific emphasis should be placed on subliminal effects of heavy metal music bringing in backward message to the adolescents’ consciousness (Frith, 2007, p. 322).

Adolescents’ being fond of heavy rock bands seek to become more self-assured with regard to dating and sexuality display. What is more threatening is that family relationships are in accord with liking or disliking heavy metal music. Within the context of music production and industry, it is not the actual music popularization that influences adolescent behavior, but the music itself with its aggressive rhythms, extremely loud volume, and electric guitars playing.

The connection between behavior and physical influence of music is apparent. Music, for instance, has the ability to ‘seize’ a moment and make adolescents feel that they are living out of time, with no memory for the past and the present. So, the influence of beat, pulse and rhythm controls human mind and body.

In order to understand the psychological dimension of music impact on mood and behavior, reference to behavioral and cognitive theoretical frameworks should be made. At this point, Saarikallio (2007) argues, “…musical activities are indeed behavioral actions and mood regulation is realized through various behaviors like listening, playing singing or dancing” (p. 30).

At the same time, music can be regarded as a platform that fosters the cognitive analysis of emotional experiences. Music is a kind of a symbolic space enabling the listeners to pass through conflicting issues and reevaluate their emotional experience. In addition, music proves to monitor three elements of emotional experience, including valence, attention and intensity, and clarity (Saarikallio, 2007).

First, valence presents music as a means of expressing adolescents’ attitude to the surrounding world. Second, the degree of attention and intensity is affected by adolescent affiliation to a particular genre of music. Finally, music sometimes allows adolescents to understand and interpret both their positive and negative experiences.

With regard to the above, music performs the function of a mood regulator. In particular, listening to the music can modify situation through creating an atmosphere. Music can also deploy attention through focusing on feelings and thoughts, as well as through distracting from undesired feelings and thoughts. Mood is recognized as a source of regulating positive and negative moods (Saarikallio, 2007).

In case with adolescents, heavy metal music can serve to dampen negative moods. Greater music regulation is closely associated with diversity in musical preference. Specifically, the strong intensity and high volume of heavy metal and rock music reveal the emotional experience of teenagers and provides a mechanism for coping with stressful experiences that are predetermined by challenging development period.

The influence of heavy metal music on adolescents can be much more threatening. In particular, Scheel (1999) has found a strong connection between music preferences and suicidal vulnerability among teenagers. Hence, it has been reported that “…heavy metal fans have weaker reasons for living, overall, than do nonfans and that female heavy metal fans show a more extreme negative pattern” (p. 259).

However, there is also an assumption that suicidal vulnerability involves such variables as family problems and stresses that teenager experience. As a result, they tend to listen to depressive music aggravating their already problematic psychological state. In addition, there is likelihood of development of antisocial attitudes and behaviors (Hansen & Hansen, 1991).

The personality characteristics, however, also matter when it comes to differences in music preferences. In addition, contrastive characteristics of heavy metal fans with nonfans also prove significant variation between these interest groups.

Music preferences strongly depend on personality types. According to the studies conducted by Schwartz (2004), forceful, inhibited, sensitive adolescents with self-esteem and family rapport concern tend to listen to heavy music. The research also indicates that general percentage of adolescents listening heavy music is much higher than among those listening to other genres of music (Schwartz, 2004).

Hence, admirers of heavy music have an anti-conformist way of thinking contributing to their higher self-doubts. Such teenagers are inclined to question other’s abilities, motives, and rules; they communicate in an insensitive and blunt manner and they feel difficulties while encountering changes. With regard to these studies, heavy metal music enhances the negative experiences of adolescents, as well as aggravates their in ability to live in society with commonly shared norms and values.

Listening to heavy music enables adolescents with family problems to forget about them and find comfort in emotional filling of the music. Such adolescents are usually emotional immature because of developing conflicts with parents based on their children dependence/independence.

Finally, it is also suggested that heavy music reflects teenagers’ negative emotions. In particular, Schwartz (2004) states, “listening to “upsetting and protesting” and “tough and hard” music likely reflects the quality and intensity of their internal states and assuages their turbulent emotions” (p. 57). This is of increased concern when the performers of heavy music are almost of similar age to the audience. Detachment from society, therefore, is compensated by negatively colored music.

As it has been defined earlier, group identity and status are closely associated with class distinctions shaping their personal needs, concerns, and interests. According to Firth (2007),

…if group identity is a part of teenage culture for conventional reasons…then even people with an ideology of individual takes become a groups of individuals and need the symbols and friends…to assert themselves as a group (p. 6).

In this respect, uniting groups under the influence of common music preferences, particular under the influence of heavy metal music, contributes to shaping new identities with specific personal features. Sharing common social attitudes, their behavior becomes similar and, as result, such group can develop a new sub-culture.

From a historical perspective, the development of hippie movement was the result of identity formation where distinctions between the audience and the performers were blurred (Frith, 2007, p. 18.). Because the organized community ideology was based on music along, their views on life were beyond the established norms in a majority society.

As a result, groups interested in heavy metal music are inspired in violent movements against social constraints. Adolescents form the major part of those movements because of their increased psychological vulnerability contribute to their aggressive behavior, anger, and rejection of existing society that disapprove of adolescents’ choices.

While discussing on the influence of heavy music on identity formation, specific attention should also be paid to the analysis of such issues as moral relativity, hypermasculinity, and anti-establishment values. There is a strong connection between heavy music listening and adolescent experiencing psychological pressure.

In this respect, music preferences reveal the needs, conflicts, and issues that constitute teenagers’ psychological portrait, involving the aspects of dependence – independence, identity, and separateness – connection. What is more important is that music choices reveal values, norms, and images forming the adolescent’s self.

Within these assumptions in mind, Schwartz (2004), “…adolescents preferring heave music have more sympathetic views of suicide, homicide, and Satanism…experience psychological turmoil…and exhibit more anger and emotional problems…” (pp. 48-49). In addition, fans of heavy metal express less respect for women and are more likely to be involved in criminal activities and antisocial behavior.

In addition, identity formation is also carried out through fans’ affiliation to the subculture to the degree that high perception seeking is correlated with alienation from society and family. Within the analysis of three profiles, Arnett (1993) demonstrates their high sensation qualities, involvement in subculture with regard to the extent of their alienation.

In conclusion, the analysis of relations between heavy metal music listening and adolescent mood, behavior, psychological state, and regulation has revealed negative evaluations mostly. In particular, adolescent behavior becomes more aggressive and less motivated. Both boys and girls are less likely to achieve high results in school; they prefer following the subculture of alienation because of family problem and friction with their peers whose outlooks on life conform to the accepted social norms.

Adolescents listening to heavy music have increased suicidal vulnerability because of the lower self-esteem and inability to make sense of their life. Finally, the psychological state of teenagers is largely affected by the physical construct music rather than by the overall popularity of heavy music trends. Hence, intensified and hard, rough and loud, the music enhances the negative perceptions of the world and contributes to the establishment of anti-social outlooks. Such a situation can lead to formation of specific identity groups.

References

Arnett, J. (1991). Heavy Metal Music and Reckless Behavior among Adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 20(6), 573-592.

Arnett, J. (1993). Three Profiles of Heavy Metal Fans: A Taste for Sensation and a Subculture of Alienation. Qualitative Sociology, 16(4), 423.

Frith, S. (2007). Taking Popular Music Seriously: Selected Essays. US: Ashgate Publishing.

Hansen, C. H., & Hansen, R. D. (1991). Constructing Personality and Social Reality Through Music: Individual Differences among Fans of Punk and Heavy Metal Music. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. 35(3), 335-350.

Harqreaves, D., & North, A. (1997). The Social Psychology of Music. US: Oxford University Press.

Saarikallio, S. (2007). Music as Mood Regulation in Adolescence. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Jyvaskyla Studies in Humanities.

Scheel, K. S. (1999). Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Suicidality: An Empirical Investigation. Adolescence, 34(134), 253.

Schwartz, K. (2004). Music Preferences, Personality Style, and Developmental Issues of Adolescents. Journal of Youth Ministry, 3(1), 47-64.

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