Musical Identities: The Development of Musical Preferences in Childhood and Adolescence

Mark Allen

Submitted for the degree of Music with Computer Sound Design

April 2010


Musical identities and taste are among the most important developing factors of personality. Such a study is important in order to determine the strongest elements that effect its formation. Childhood and adolescence are crucial years in this development, and by focusing on areas such as family, school, instrumental learning, class and most importantly peer relationships, we can understand how people use music to express emotion or feelings, and represent themselves.

Children and adolescents spend the majority of their youth in school environments, surrounded by others, interacting and socialising through music. School and peers have some of the largest influences, as the school environment provides a place to meet others from a variety of backgrounds. They strive for social acceptance and use comparisons of others to shape their own personalities. By looking at studies from a number of global sources and conducting research of my own (see Appendix A), the main conclusions drawn are that adolescents create and desire their own musical journey of discovery from a variety of sources. They gradually move from the music played to them by their parents onto music of their own choosing, often in an opposing direction. Social class has also become less important in recent years due to the increased blurring of class boundaries and mass-access to global music styles. The development of musical identities is a gradual process, and this means that changes often go unnoticed.

Table Of Contents

Introduction...........................................................................................................................1 Chapter 1: Chapter 2: Identity..............................................................................................................5 Childhood.........................................................................................................8 i: The Role of Parents and the Family...................................................9 ii: School and Early Peer Relationships..............................................12 Chapter 3: Adolescence..................................................................................................14 i: Family and Adult Interactions...........................................................15 ii: Social Class.....................................................................................17 iii: Instrumental Learning and the School Environment.......................19 iv: Peer Culture....................................................................................22 Chapter 4: Questionnaire.................................................................................................26

Conclusions.........................................................................................................................28 Bibliography.........................................................................................................................31 Web References..................................................................................................................36 Appendix.............................................................................................................................37



Music can enable people to make daily work easier and to celebrate and dance; to protest against oppression and to establish contact with the Gods' to tell the history of the past and to dream about the future; to encourage the fi ghter and to calm the worried; to shout out pain and bring messages of love; to keep weariness away and to make babies fall asleep [Folkestad 2002: 151].

Music appears within every facet of our existence as humans. We are constantly bombarded with sounds in multiple formats from multiple sources. We can use it to share meanings 'even though [our] spoken languages might be mutually incomprehensible' [Hargreaves et al. 2002: 1]. Our society revolves around music, and it is a huge part of an individual's life. It can generate emotions, stir memories, educate and inspire. In Seashore's Why We Love Music dating back to 1941, he states that music 'creates a physiological well-being in our carries us through realms of creative imagination...' [1941: 9]. This statement alone indicates that music has some sort of underlying effects and stature within our personalities other than providing entertainment. Musical identities can be defined as the styles or tastes of music we choose to associate with and listen to. 'The development of a musical identity is not only a matter of age, gender, musical taste or other preferences, but is also a result of cultural, ethnic, religious and national contexts in which people live' [Folkestad 2002: 151]. Musical identities are complex and detailed, and are an area which can be deeply explored.

The years throughout childhood and adolescence are some of the most, if not the most infl uential in creating and shaping personalities and identities. There are huge biological changes and developments, fusing with social incidents to form our personalities. Music is one of the largest entertainment industries, and a strong social medium. We inherently feel rhythm and tones from birth, and as we grow, music takes an ever increasing role in many aspects of ones life, and it can often be in subtle or unnoticed ways.


Throughout childhood, primarily during pre-school and school age, we are subjected to a number of events and important changes within our surroundings. Often without realising, these new experiences play a role in shaping our overall musical identity. It is often at stages where we are in controlled environments, often subject to the external decisions of others. We are subjected and forced to experience the opinions and values of others, which have an effect on us in some way or another. At 4 years of age in the UK and many other countries, children begin compulsory primary education. This is often one of the first times of interaction with other children, which is a key part of their development for a number of reasons, including musical identities.

Identities continue to develop and form throughout our childhood years, leading to adolescence, where huge changes occur. The teenage years are some of the most crucial in the development of identity; we begin to think freely and become more susceptible to external infl uencing factors, such as our peers. The age at which adolescence is reached is becoming increasingly reduced, with The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development placing the beginning of adolescence as early as 10 years, whereas most argue it begins around 2 years later. This is much earlier than it would have 50 or 100 years ago [Christenson et al. 1998], and acceleration like this could be caused by a range of social and technological advances, as we involve ourselves with them much earlier than previous generations.

Musical Identities do not just focus on the genres or styles of music listened to, but on the role in which music plays in shaping our image and how we are perceived by others within society. Farnsworth's statement in The Social Psychology of Music explains one of the common misconceptions of music taste.

The fact that several of one's friends may enjoy only jazz and other colleagues receive their greatest pleasure from the music of Beethoven is often brushed aside with an airy “what's one man's poison, signor, is another's meat and drink”. The assumption seems implicit in this statement that taste is whimsical and thus without pattern of any sort [1969: 98].


This statement is an interesting and relevant one, as although it is clear that the majority of people would admit external factors in determining their musical identity, we often ignore or deny them. It appears to us to just be 'something that has developed' or shaped over time, with no signifi cant or identifiable factors; this is clearly not the case.

Cook states that 'In today's world, deciding what music to listen to is a signifi cant part of deciding and announcing to people not just who you “want to be”...but who you are' [1998: 5]. We look to musicians and performers, people who are expressing their views and ideologies to the world, for inspiration and guidance. Music has the ability to determine how we dress, how we act, who we associate with and our behaviour to others. We discuss it to inform and understand each others' personality [Rentfrow & Gosling 2006], often in an attempt to further enhance our own.

Within society, certain genres can carry strong codes of conduct and values, which the listener has to abide by in order to fully appreciate it [Hargreaves et al. 2002]. ' It provides a means of defining oneself as an individual belonging to and allied with a certain group, and of defi ning others as belonging to other groups which are separate from one's own' [Folkestad 2002: 151]. The way we dress can be used as a way to express strong statements and opinions, and it is often one of the first aspects of a person that we use to develop an understanding of them. Very few people will express little or no taste in music, and the majority of people when asked will insist on a strong preference for particular styles and genres.

However, one thing to consider when looking at studies on musical identities is the notion that due to certain music evoking various reactions and emotions to different people at different times, it is often important to understand that the results may not necessarily provide a concrete answer to a person's taste. Hargreaves et al. state that 'music can have short term, transitory effects as well as a more deep-seated influence on our beliefs and behaviour' [2002: 11]. This is vital to understanding and decoding responses in musical taste.

Identity as a concept can be looked at from many angles. Identity theory has been researched for many years within Psychology, as we try to unravel the many facets of our personalities, and the elements that construct them. It is one of the most complex aspects of our being, as there are so many variable factors, that change and fl uctuate depending on things such as our location,


upbringing and ethnicity. By looking at identity theory and concepts within it, we can use this to understand some of the most important issues that aid our musical identity development.

Music taste is an aspect of our identities that has been studied within the academic areas of Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and Musicology, and countless studies have been undertaken to try and understand what the major factors are for what we choose to listen to. These preferences develop primarily during some of the most important and elemental stages of our lives. It is at times when we are discovering tastes not just in music, but in cultural and social domains too. Identity development occurs at a dramatic rate, and we look to sources for inspiration on how to form it. Rentfrow & Gosling argue that although there has been much research and information about personality, there is not a huge level of attention to behaviour in real life in regards to psychology and social personality. It is our behaviours in everyday life that can tell us huge amounts about our personality. 'Music is a ubiquitous social phenomenon...even in social gatherings where music is not the primary focus, it is an essential component' [2003: 1236-1237]. It surrounds us in daily life, and for that reason alone it must be a crucial aspect of our development of personality.

Rentfrow & Gosling [2006] also argue that there are three mechanisms for people's musical preferences revealing information within our personalities. Firstly, they may seek out particular styles because they sound pleasing. Someone may enjoy choral music because they enjoy sounds of the human voice, or on a higher-cognitive level, they might have religious links with it. Secondly, they might use it to regulate mood. Thirdly, individuals might use music to make identity claims of themselves and others, such as intelligent people listening to complex music because it projects the image of sophistication. I believe the most important is the last point, particularly within personality development, but they often actively work together. It also emphasises how important music is for identity purposes. People choose to listen to many different styles of music for a number of different reasons, and their research also suggested that users understand that music preference is linked with personality and perceived personality.

There are many different approaches that could be taken when studying musical identities, but a number stand out as having the greatest effect. The main areas of focus will be around family life and parental involvement throughout childhood and adolescence, as it is arguably family life that


has one of the greatest parts to play in shaping identities. Education and school life is another highly important time to consider, as along with it being one of the main social environments we encounter throughout our youth, due to the social, psychological and physical development that is occurring. I will also look at the effect that instrumental learning or formal tuition has, as they can show how children interact with music in a particular environment, such as school or the home. Peers and peer culture in school and social life are also some of the major creators, developers and instigators in our musical tastes. Their infl uence can sometimes go unnoticed, as it is often a very gradual or seemingly ordinary process, but their role for some is the most important of all, as can be seen in sub cultures and cliques around the world. By comparing studies, looking at results from my own questionnaire and examining sociological theory, the aim is to highlight what the fundamental events and effects on musical identity formation.

Chapter 1


Identity can be one of the most complex and intricate elements of human life, as it is one of the most malleable and changeable aspects of our personality. Developmental psychologists have strived to pinpoint certain key areas of our personality development, and many have different ideas or opinions. It begins in childhood, with the establishment of the self and areas or people around us. Continuing through childhood, it reaches a peak in adolescence. Erik Erikson's [1968] writings on development within adolescence provided much of the basis for many studies and experiments to follow, with Erikson arguing that late-adolescence was a crucial time for development of the self, achieving identity without identity confusion. According to his works, it is by the age of 2 that children can recognise themselves. 'Children have developed a clear image of self – a sense of separateness and personal identity.' [Slee 2002: 228]. From this early age, children begin to understand that they are separate entities to the people who raise them, and it is from then on that their surroundings begin to influence them. Another concept by Alexandra Lamont [2002] states that the development of a child's' identity takes two paths, Self understanding, or understanding


ourselves as individuals, and self-other understanding, or how we begin to understand and relate ourselves to others. The latter is often the initial stage, as one will gradually establish the roles of the people surrounding them, before developing a sense of 'who they are' or how they fi t within the group itself.

In regards to identity study as a whole, it is only in the last 60 years or so that studies and explorations into the complexity of identity have been made. These searches have had a central purpose: 'to define individual identity and to show how identity leads one to find (or not find) meaningful connections and pursuits within a larger cultural milieu' [Kroger 2000: 4]. Kroger's statement highlights two important points: the importance of culture and environment in the definition.

Society and our interactions with it arguably play one of the largest roles in identity formation. Burkitt argues that individuality is 'not innate or prior to society', but 'comes only into existence through social relations...the many facets each of us have in our personality are differentiated and divided in the way we relate to other people; they are not pre-given aspects of the self with which we are born' [1991: 2]. This statement can be applied to musical taste, as it is our interactions with others throughout the primary developmental years that can effect our musical taste.

Self-identity is often a search for reason or meaning in one's personality. It is constant monitoring, updating and amending of biographies to present particular conceptions of self to others and oneself [Smith 1994]. The word 'individual' is often used as a synonym for 'person', and Conger argues that this 'implies a need to perceive oneself as somehow separate from others, no matter how much one can share with them. Closely related is the need for self-consistency, a feeling of wholeness' [1991: 55]. This search for self-identity can continue throughout life for some, constantly making comparisons to others within their social space.

The desire to appear unique or individual becomes strongest during adolescence, as many struggle to determine the social groups they adhere to or follow. This feeling of 'wholeness' could refer to the desire for acceptance within social groups; the idea of being 'normal'. Farnsworth views the self as something which is 'constantly reconstructed or renegotiated', based on experiences and situations with other people in everyday life [1969]. It is often these daily interactions that help


us to understand and construct particular favourable traits within our personalities. Kósa also shares a similar view, stating that 'the individual, infl uenced by specific agents, acquires approved social norms, roles and behaviour through active participation in the socialisation process from early childhood' [2005: 121]. The 'specific agents' she refers to could be parental/family fi gures, or peers later in childhood. Both of these have influences on identity.

By understanding the basis of identity models, they allow us to pinpoint key times in youth where identity is most fluid and changeable, and key areas that we draw desirable qualities from. Our understanding of this and self-identity make for greater clues as to the major constructors of our musical identities. The understanding of self-identity and the presentation of one's self is fundamental to music, as it is often music that is used to present or establish this. Music is a huge factor in social awareness, and Laughey states that it 'retains a social and cultural force of identification and presentation in nearly all young people's lives whether they like it or not' [2006: 1].

It is clear that music is more than just an entertainment and pleasure entity in our youth, and the media as a whole influences children with ideas and desirable qualities. Their 'perception of reality, of social norms and of socially accepted behaviour are influenced by intensive use of both traditional and newer media...near continuous exposure to mediated representations, popular images and symbolic models' [Fülöp 2005: xiii]. These interactions are no more apparent and applicable today, with youth culture being surrounded by communication and interaction with others.


Chapter 2


The social aspects of music for children and youth culture is one that has been covered from many angles. From exploring the social environment of a group of children, one study by Amanda Minks aimed to show that music is 'a transitional link between child and youth cultures, as a means of drawing social boundaries of belonging, and as a tool of identity construction that is tied to notions of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and nationality' [1999: 78]. The factors stated are clearly important to this construction, as they will define traits within a person's personality.

The musical abilities and interactions expressed by children has been something that has baffl ed and fascinated psychologists and parents for many years. Countless toys and sound-making instruments have been put on the market, allowing children to musically express themselves, in often random and puzzling ways. The smallest of sounds can cause joy for infants and small children, oblivious to the attention of the parents. 'The child's preoccupation with the raw materials of sound often go completely unnoticed. The pleasure in rattles for instance, is not shared aurally with his parents – they watch, but do not listen to the source of his delight...' [Phillips 1979: 13]. A sound such as a rattle that the majority of adults ignore or look bewildered at could be the initial discoveries of 'sound' or music for this child. Similar to how colours and shapes can provide stimulation, rattles for example 'help in finely honing the senses' [Mirpuri 2010]. One could argue that due to our exposure and sensory development, we fi nd these sounds meaningless compared to the depth and diversity we experience today. Campbell shares a similar view, arguing that children's engagement with music is 'frequently paid minimal attention by teachers and parents, even when it may be the rich repository of children's intimate thoughts and sentiments' [1998: 4].

Interaction with music is key to a child's musical identity. Even if they personally cannot explain why in detail, they sing along and explore music with others. 'Children think aloud through music.


They socialise, vent emotions, and entertain themselves through music. Their bodies stretch, bend, step, stop, hop, and skip in rhythmic ways' [Campbell 1998: 4]. This dancing and moving to musical rhythms is often for enjoyment at this stage in their lives, as they focus on rhythms and melodies, ie the music itself. Lamont argues that it is around 7 years old that children can begin to make comparative judgements and decisions in regards to musical taste and they should be based initially on 'external and observable activities and experiences' [2002: 43]. This could be brought earlier by these external factors, as they could almost accelerate this development. The importance of socialising through music are also beginning to show by this point, as they group together and experience it with one another. They also use it and listen to it in their most private of times [Campbell 1998]. It is interesting to note even at this early stage children begin to almost harness the power that music can have.

i. The Role of Parents and Family

Family and parents undoubtedly have an influence on their children, and the 'nature or nurture' argument is one that has raged on for many years. Parents often believe that certain characteristics that they bestow upon their children will change their roles or behaviours within society. Parental pressures are also crucial in the development of a child's personality. Family is at the forefront on social interactions until the age of school, and are 'intense, sustained and varied' [Wenar 1971: 305]. Erikson promoted the importance of strong family relationships, stating that children are '[he is] deeply and exclusively “identifi ed” with [his] parents, who most of the time appear to him to be powerful and beautiful, although often quite unreasonable' [1968: 115]. Older siblings can also provide sources for new music and styles [Minks 1999]. Parents are prominent role models in identity as a whole, but with growth, more and more models become involved [Kósa 2005]. These role models often over take parents in infl uential importance, particularly in adolescence.

Gesell and Frances [1943] believed that if parents or teachers assumed they could mould a child into particular patterns, they would become autocratic. But, if they began with the assumption that every baby had a unique individuality, their task would rather be to interpret this individuality, to


allow it to grow. This concept is one that needs to be considered when determining musical identities, as the freedom allowed by them to develop their own ideas and opinions will affect their personality in some way. Looking more at musical identities, a recent article in the Guardian newspaper highlights this point even further.

My first musical crush was Adam and the Ants; but I don't think I would have fallen in love with them if my dad had come home with a copy of Kings of the Wild Frontier and started lecturing me on its genius. What made Adam and the Ants special was that I discovered them for myself, in the front room, watching Top of the Pops. [Petridis 2009]

This idea of 'self discovery' is important in developing musical identities, as we almost feel like it is wrong to like an artist put upon us by someone else, particularly a parental fi gure; part of the enjoyment is this discovery.

Sharing and communication is also a vital progression, as argued by Paul Elek. 'A small child allowed to help mum or dad cook or mend the car is going to grow up with an interest in and respect these activities. That is perfectly obvious' [1979: 14]. One might argue that this is not necessarily the case, as partaking in certain hobbies or activities with parents as a child could hold complex emotions or memories that could cause them to dislike it when older.

The acknowledgement of a parent's influence on music taste is widely fought, and children expressing a dislike for their parent's music is a stereotype throughout the Western world. In particular interviews conducted by Dan Laughey with children from the North of England during 2006, the majority of children abruptly denied family elders having an infl uence on their musical preferences [2006]. A study conducted by Christenson [1994] showed a 20% drop in a child's liking of a parent's music from third and fourth grade (8-9 years) to fi fth and sixth (10-11 years). This follows the majority of ideas about children entering adolescence, and becoming more removed from their parent's music, and acquiring their own tastes.

Instrumental learning can also be an area to look at, as 'children learn discipline from the rehearsal process, self-expression from performance and social interaction from group studies' [Pollick


2010]. Although not necessarily linked to taste directly, it can highlight how pressure from parents and other sources effect personality and development, and in turn affecting taste. Highly supportive parents can be linked to the success of students [Davidson et al. 1996], and parents are often encouraged to become involved with the learning process. For many, it is seen as part of the fundamental learning process through school, and many continue throughout their adult life.

Parents who are musicians and perform themselves may provide a very different learning environment for those who do not. Non-performing parents may be more inclined to merit minor musical accomplishments, therefore enhancing their child's sense of self-esteem. A highly skilled parent might present an unattainable bar to match or achieve [Davidson et al. 1996]. A year-long study by Borthwick [1998] of a family with two highly prolifi c musical parents highlights the complications with encouragement and support. The Mother was a younger sibling, and therefore had been regarded as less able musically in her family, whilst the Father was the eldest, and therefore regarded as a musical genius. They mirrored similar developments in their own children, with the eldest being deliberately encouraged, and the younger being regarded as untalented – though perfectly competent for her age. Borthwick suggested that the parents ignored the age difference, thus levelling each child as equal in 'attainable ability'.

Musical learning also carries strong social connotations, and these can be the most important in personality development. Music becomes constructed within identity;

What many young leaners do in their social relationships with others, and with their engagement in music-making itself, is to develop the self in such a manner that music becomes an essential construct for their personal identities...they see the 'self' in relation to music [Davidson 1999: 30].

What Davidson is saying is that music-making and instrument playing is a hugely interactive and social task, and this becomes part of us and the 'self'.

By looking at these studies of supportive parents, we can begin to relate them to musical identities. Parents widely encourage children to learn instruments, primarily whilst at school, as it is well integrated into the learning system. As discussed later on, tastes begin to change, primarily during


adolescence, and for some, a less structured learning/musical interaction becomes more favoured. This could also be linked with a change in musical taste to suit the instrument or setting.

ii. School and Early Peer Relationships

School is a vital part of any child's development, as it is one of the fi rst times they have had the opportunity to mix with others of the same age on a larger scale. 'Children begin to come into contact with many more children of the same age at nursery school and school. Before this, children's social identities are shaped largely by their family circumstances' [Lamont 2002: 43]. This is an important factor to consider, as they defi ne themselves, or are shaped by, a relatively small selection of people initially. These early surroundings often have more competent or older influencers, which means it is only when children reach social surroundings with other similar-aged individuals can self-other understanding and self-comparison begin to occur. Schools often provide children with different cultures, and this is a factor in their social development. 'At school, children often come in contact with a much more diverse range of people than they encounter in their homes and neighbourhoods.' [Minks 1999: 78] With these interactions, they will bring with them their own listening experiences and share them appropriately. Parents also have the ability to determine how much they interact socially. 'The infl uence of the larger social groups is limited by the trends initiated through family' [Gesell et al. 1943: 37]. For some, they may have been around children their own age or older from birth, or perhaps only really started to interact in formal settings such as school or non-family organised events.

The musical experiences at school are very different to those in the home [Corrigan 1979], and both of these locations form together. A particular study by Corrigan emphasised this importance of context. Each boy he analysed had some relation with pop music, and he argued that by listening to this music in dance halls, they are there 'not only for the music...but also for the social institutions that [they] can create out of the freedom that [they] are allowed' [1979: 110]. The location that this music is played is a very different environment to the home, and this shows the beginning of the social importance of music for these individuals. Minks [1999] studied a class of Fifth grade children (10-11 years) in Philadelphia, USA, where the teacher would allow them to


play their own recordings at the end of class. 'I t was an eagerly anticipated opportunity to hear the latest cool song, to show off their ownership of a cool song, or to demonstrate their worldly ways by singing all the words to a song' [1999: 79]. Mink's study emphasises the social aspect of music, such as this idea of 'owning the newest song', and the increasing effect peers have on them in both development and acceptance. Radio is another medium that, although having declined heavily in the last 5-10 years as a means for listening to new music for children, was the main source for the latest song; 'when they listen to radio or other sources of pop music, children are essentially 'eavesdropping'. Listening in on a culture to which they may desperately aspire (especially as they near adolescence) but which is not yet theirs' [Christenson and DeBenedittis 1986: 29]. The songs, artists and personalities they hear on the radio may be ones they aspire to and want to recreate themselves, even if they cannot yet.

The results of the questionnaire also indicate that the vast majority of people were encouraged to learn an instrument by their parents. It is often seen as a good skill to acquire, and is something sociable and enjoyable to do. Davidson's [1999] study on the continuation of musical learning looked at children aged 7-9, and the effect the school environment has on it. Few of them cited their parents active involvement in music as a reason for learning the instrument. Rather, he found that 40-45% of the children stated that their exposure to other students in school bands was the biggest influence. This could be an example of the early signs of peers becoming a larger influencing factor in children's lives. Students were 'learning to play for the school band for the social opportunities it brought with peers and staff' [1999: 34]. Peer infl uence and social relations are important from an early age, and we can use Davidson's research to get an idea of how they interact in school locations. Interestingly, approximately 65% of people asked in my questionnaire disagreed that their peers at school made them want to learn an instrument. Students were 'learning to play for the school band for the social opportunities it brought with peers and staff' [Davidson 1999: 34]. Peer influence and social relations are important from an early age, and we can use Davidson's research to get an idea of how they interact in school locations.


Chapter 3


Teenage and adolescent years are the most key in the development of identity. It is a 'continual intense search...forcing the individual to ask 'Who Am I?' [Kósa 2005: 123]. They are often surrounded by individuals all looking for desirable traits and qualities, or ones that are socially accepted as 'good' qualities to acquire. As stated previously, adolescents are going through a number of changes biologically, physically and socially, and Conger [1991] argues that 'adolescents may at times feel like spectators observing their changing selves. They need time to integrate the rapid changes of body and mind into a gradually emerging sense of identity'. [1991: 56]. He also argues that 'at no other state of development is the sense of identity so fl uid' [1991: 281]. This 'fluidity' that he describes is fundamental to understanding the number of external and internal sources and their effect on our musical identities. 'The always changing and developing: at its best, it is a process of increasing differentiation' [Erikson 1968: 23]. Music becomes increasingly important throughout adolescence, as they start to actively choose what they listen to, in return for some gratifi cation for themselves. They form statements of attitudes towards society as a whole, and the factors that infl uence their musical taste increasingly changes and moves. It is without doubt that taste develops from experiences at home, church, club or school settings [Farnsworth 1969].

In 1972, Frith interviewed a number of students in Keighley, a small industrial town in the North of England, speaking primarily to 14-18 year olds, the majority of them liking rock music. Typical responses on influences of taste were 'I like what I like, no one changes my opinions on music' and 'I like what I like, not what I'm told or influenced to like'. These statements are interesting, as adolescents are often adamant to be recognised as having made their own musical taste


decisions. Approximately a third of respondents to my questionnaire agreed or strongly agreed that they created their musical identity without their peers or parents infl uence.

i. Family and Adult Interactions

By adolescence, the family and parents are becoming less and less infl uential, and external factors become more prevalent. 'In trying to define themselves they actively seek role models from outside the family as possible alternative choices' [Kósa 2005: 123]. As they discover these alternative sources, the traits, in this case musical, may seem childish or associated with the past, and therefore something to move on from, or 'grow out of'. 'They adopt less idealised images of their parents, relinquish some of their childish dependencies on them, and form a more individual idea of self' [Steinberg & Silverberg 1986: 849]. Their independence, no matter how small, is becoming important.

The interviews conducted by Dan Laughey [2006] provided one of the largest insights into the musical minds of adolescents. They have shown that many adolescents understand, recognise and acknowledge the effect and influence their parent's or family have had on them as they grew up. In one particular interview, a girl stated that her father 'had always infl uenced her', because he would play his music frequently to her in various settings. In another, one girl's preference for Gospel music came from attending church at the will of her grandparents, who had strong religious beliefs. Another girl reportedly got into such 1970's artists as Queen from her Dads' experiences as a DJ. It is these interactions in home and local spaces that have the largest infl uence. Many people, when asked, can remember listening to their parent's music as children, but often deny it having any connection with their musical taste's themselves.

From the questionnaire, when asked to rate the statement - 'I believe my parents helped to shape my musical taste', approximately 48% of people responded between neutral and strongly disagree, possibly showing that it is often something that is not necessarily directly linked. 'Very few teens, we expect, look to their parents for musical infl uence, and even fewer would admit it if they did' [Christenson and Roberts 1998: 82]. For many, it is not socially acceptable to say you like similar


music to your parents, as it is regarded as 'old' or 'uncool'. 'Popular music is the crucial battlefront in the war between the generations [1998: 7]. Teens use it to sometimes distance themselves from their parental pressures. It can also work in the opposing way, with studies showing parents having a willingness to listen and enjoy their children's music too [Borthwick and Davidson 2002]. We could take this to mean two things. Encouragement and support from a parent for a style may cause the teen to change or rebel against it, disliking the parent's desire to be part of their socialstrata. Or on the other hand, it could strengthen the relationship, and possibly change or enhance some of the styles liked by the adolescent themselves.

The stereotypical image of adult's distaste for teen music is one that has stood for many years. Shown often in media, parents express a strong distaste for teen or 'chart' music, either referring to it as 'noise' or 'unmusical'. Adults often feel they have superior taste to young people, but this is something that has continued for years. 'Ours is not the first generation to think that what younger people listen to is drivel; but we are perhaps the first generation conceited and self-centred enough to think we have to do something about it' [Petridis 2009]. Parents feel it is their duty sometimes to 'educate' or direct their children musically. This trend seems to be continuing, almost as if it has become a social norm for many family settings. 'For some kids, surely, it [parental infl uence] is direct and positive, essentially a form of modelling. For others, the infl uence is reactive – no music will do unless it enrages their parents' [Christenson and Roberts 1998: 82].

Adults often see particular styles and genres as causes for personality and identity development. Genres that represent strong views or traits have been slammed by the public media for creating and moulding the opinions and ideas of adolescents. Youth music and its themes often clashes with parental values [Thompson and Larson: 1995].

'For every critic who urges the censorship of Rap and Heavy Metal lyrics, there is a free speech advocate who views these genres as the last bastion of meaningful social criticism' [Christenson et al. 1998: 6]. Lyrics are something used to express ideas or emotions, but 'many adolescents naturally resist the notion that something as trivial as music lyrics could infl uence them in any important way' [1998: 7]. Parents and the media often try and account for a child's bad behaviour or rebellious nature through listening to explicit or lyrics about 'undesirable' or explicit topics, but it


is arguable that many understand that they are lyrics and nothing more, and that they are a strong expression of freedom of speech for young people.

Heavy Metal is a genre that is sometimes linked to delinquent behaviour, but one argument is that it 'turns children into monsters...they [adults] lose sight of the reality that many kids may be monsters already and simply seek out musical fare that resonates with their monstrous inclinations' [1998: 7]. This statement shows one opinion that is often shared, presenting the fact that these children may already have these views or opinions, and have found someone or something that appears to share them too. Looking at the genre more specifi cally, Hansen & Hansen's [1991] study of Heavy Metal and Punk Rock found the former to have fans with particular characteristics. Their results concluded that Heavy Metal fans were more likely to endorse disrespect for women and male hyper-sexuality. It portrays Heavy Metal fans in a very unfl attering way, and although this was a relatively small sample size and undertaken in a university environment, it is interesting that these traits, often linked to genres such as Heavy Metal, have been reported.

Punk Rock is another genre associated with poor behaviour or attitude, and research by Gold [1987] in family dynamics with punk fans and non-fans found it linked to personality. He found that fans felt misunderstood by parents much more than non-fans, and did not feel close to their families whilst growing up. Delinquent or misbehaviour is something often linked with minimal or difficult connections with their parents. Just because a person has minimal family relations does not necessarily mean they will automatically turn to 'rebellious' music. Some may turn to it because they feel that the lyrics and ideas of the musicians refl ect their own, and it is someone with shared opinions, and they feel they can relate to them in a stronger way than their parents, or any other adult figures.

ii. Social Class

Frith [1983] noted that during the 1950's changes within adolescence were occurring. 'American sociologists noted that middle-classed children were deliberately adopting lower-class values -


“toughness, excitement, chance-taking, indulgence”...thus making a conscious decision to oppose the values of their parents (unlike working-class of conformity)' [1983: 190]. Although focusing on the USA, some mirrors can be seen in British culture. Many strived to move from their upper and middle-class values, and music was often a way to show this.

Class and wealth are two areas that are arguably involved in identity shaping, but where an adolescent stands within society 'is more than a simple matter of parental education or income' [Christenson and Roberts 1998: 96], and there are more than just these factors at play in developing musical taste, particularly when placed in a school environment. They also found from other studies that social class and preference for particular styles showed little or no correlation. There were, however, certain relationships that appeared. From looking at the results of my study also, the majority of people disagreed that their family's social status determined their musical taste. Christenson et al. also found that 'In most studies, lower parental occupation and education tend to go with a preference for mainstream or Top 40, higher status with a taste for Jazz, Classical, “progressive” forms of rock, and world music' [1998: 95-96]. These results are interesting to consider, as these genres are often represented as such. Frith argues that class does not influence taste for teens; 'all adolescents use music as a badge and a background, a means of identifying and articulating emotion. Youth culture is, from this perspective, classless' [Frith 1983: 216].

Research by Schuessler also found that Classical and Light Classical music had the greatest appeal for the upper classes, while Jazz and Hill-Billy music had the greatest appeal for the lower classes. He concluded that members of the upper social classes were more likely to receive formal music training or tuition (something I will cover later in this chapter), thus infl uencing an appropriate music taste. He also added that socio-economic position may cause a person to be exposed to those particular styles more frequently, whilst being isolated from others. [1948]. Although this study is over 50 years old, and musical preferences within the general public have changed some what, there are certainly reflections within society with other genres that can be seen.

Linking intelligence and musical taste is something that few sociologists and scientists have looked at, and one study conducted by Virgil Griffi th [2008] correlated American children's results in their SATs (the standard college entrance exam for students in the USA), and their favourite artists. He


found that artists such as Radiohead (Rock), Beethoven (Classical), Counting Crows (Rock) and Ben Folds (Indie) were top of the list, and Lil' Wayne (Hip Hop), Beyonce (R&B), T.I. (Hip Hop) and Gospel correlated with students of low SAT scores. We can read any number of thoughts and ideas into Griffith's results, but classical artists and 'high brow' musicians are often associated with intelligence. Hip Hop artists such as Lil' Wayne are often branded as coming from lower intelligence, or even low-income families, and this could mean he appeals to people from similar backgrounds. A study by Keith Roe [1993] on Swedish adolescents also examined the relationship between school variables and music preference. He found that teens who performed badly at school and achieved less academically had a taste for music associated with rebellion such as Heavy Rock or Punk, and having little or no desire for Classical, Jazz or Blues. He also found that the higher achievers had a preference for Pop, Disco and Synth music. These results alone show links between rebellious music and bad school results or bad behaviour.

Mulder et al. [2009] conducted a study on a number of Dutch adolescents over a 3 year period from 2004-2007, looking at their favourite artists. They found that the level of education did not affect their musical taste, and all the students rated artists such as DJ Tiësto (Trance), Robbie Williams (Pop) and M Borsato (a best-selling Dutch artist). These artists represent the majority of popular music for these people, and highlight that for these adolescents and this culture, education was not an influencing factor in musical taste. It could be argued that their culture has a greater effect on their musical taste in Dutch society than education level itself.

iii. Instrument Learning and the School Environment

As stated previously, instrumental learning is an interesting topic to explore when studying musical identities. The encouragements and environments that different adolescents share when learning an instrument or any type of musical tuition can be looked at to show us evidence of changes in musical taste and personality. Tarrant found from one study that 'those participants who currently play an instrument use music for different reasons than those who used to play an instrument, but have since ceased, or those who have never played at all' [2000: 172]. From this, we can gather that instrumental learning will play a role in forming musical taste.


Learning a musical instrument can be seen as a socially or culturally benefi cial thing to do, and as Laughey [2006] found with one interviewee, children and teens are often encouraged to learn an instrument by their parents. He found that one person for example, from Singapore, could 'see it as a good thing to make your child do', and that they could also put it down to cultural reasons, as piano (the instrument in question) becomes a status symbol, and playing the piano, or having a musical ability is a socio-cultural value. The questionnaire also indicated that well over half of people were actively encouraged to learn an instrument when growing up.

Another concept that comes out of adolescence is the move from formal or structured learning to favour more unorganised methods of music-making. One could argue that this goes with the change or development in musical taste through adolescence. Children are often encouraged to learn traditional instruments through school life, as it is appropriate for the setting of learning. As tastes develop more strongly, some may favour 'cooler' instruments, or ones associated with their favourite artists or genres. Results from a large sample of 2465 adolescents aged between 13 and 14 supports this.

School music is out of touch with the needs of many pupils. This is shown by the alarmingly high proportion of our respondents who reported having started to learn an instrument and subsequently giving up, as well as by the generally negative view of classical music which they expressed. [North, Hargreaves and O'Neill 2000: 270].

School-based musical learning is often part of the compulsory curriculum for many students, and how they choose to associate and how involved they decide to become with it can have an effect on their musical tastes and attitudes towards formal learning as a whole. Bray [2000] found that regardless of the mandatory part of the curriculum, students favour other subjects over Music when the choice became available, such as at GCSE level. The school teaching structure is often seen as rigid and as teens grow and become desperate for 'individuality', they may feel that they are being restricted by the formal environment. Lamont feels that 'by age 14 years, children who do not participate in these activities do not consider music something worth studying or something they are able to do, whilst children who do are likely to have developed a more positive musical identity' [2002: 46-47]. The ones who continue with music will have a much more fond and strengthened bond with the formal process, and this may infl uence their taste in some way.


As stated previously, throughout their secondary education in the UK, children's attitudes to music in their environments and the school environment change and fl uctuate, and a study by Lamont and Tarrant [2001] of students between the ages of 11-14 illustrates this. The following results are taken from Lamont's chapter in Musical Identities [2002], from a sample of 284 children, comparing two different schools. They found that only 6% of non-players took part in extra-curricular musical activities, whilst almost a third of the playing musicians did so. Many of the playing musicians also came from homes where someone else played a musical instrument. The number of nonmusicians also increased by 20 points from 51% to 71% from years 7-9 (age 11-13), trained musicians dropped from 19-9%, and playing musicians also dropped 10 points from 30-20%. These drops in overall musicianship across the school is an example of the changing attitudes of these young musicians. They are often forced or actively encouraged to learn music in a formal setting, and this can act as a driving force to move away from genres that include those instruments or genres. Teens begin to favour music experiences away from the pressures of adults, even encouraging ones such as music teachers, as they increasingly look to their peers for education and influence on music.

School and education as a whole is a huge part of a person's life, as for most children, and it is an area in which they spend the majority of their childhood. Identity is continually being shaped, and it is arguably these interactions at school that play the largest role in musical taste. It is where the majority of initial social interactions occur. During adolescence, 'the adoption of a certain music style – that is, a type of music and a personal style to go with it – is one of the most powerful identifying markers in the school structure' [Christenson et al. 1998: 98].

Keith Roe [1993] also found Heavy Metal to be a genre scoring highly amongst all five of the social classes he examined, and although it was strongest amongst lower achievers and low incomes, it was also one of the most liked with lower-achieving upper and middle classed adolescents. These taste differences associated with class and academic level made him conclude that 'upper working class adolescents doing badly at school try to distinguish themselves, by means of musical style, from their lower working class counterparts'. These teens are all working together at similar levels of academic skill, so therefore need to find other ways of distancing themselves from their peers.


He then argues that school achievement helps to structure music tastes. His research links the importance of the school structure as one aspect of musical identities.

In another examination of Swedish students in 1984, he argued that 'the connection between school orientation and popular music taste arises from the process of academic

evaluation...separates students into two classes – the successes and the failures...peer group structure based primarily on academic achievement towards school'. He also concluded that because of this causing stronger peer relationships for poor-performing adolescents, they naturally developed a taste for defiant music. [Roe in Christenson et al. 1998]. One thing that is extremely important in Roe's study that Christenson et al. raises is that because it studied students for a period of 3 years, it indicates that early school achievement led to later musical choices, not the other way round. This can then rule out the argument that early exposure to 'oppositional' music causes negative school attitudes. This is a view that is often shared with the media and parents, so this is a key study in understanding how for some, musical preferences are almost 'decided' by an adolescent's school attitude.

iv. Peer Culture

Adolescents spend a huge amount of time with their peers, and excluding time spent in classrooms (23% of waking hours), high school students spend nearly twice as much time with peers (29%) as with parents and other adults (15%) [Feldman & Elliott 1990]. Although family have been the major contributor in identity formation, by high school they are much more reliant on their peers, much more than younger children, as their ties to their parents become looser as they gain greater 'independence' [Conger 1991]. Peer socialising peaks at around the age of 15 or 16, where their ideas and values overtake those of their parents or other adult fi gures [Steinberg & Silverberg 1986]. Mulder et al. state that after this peak, 'an increased individualisation of music taste can be observed, with more room for idiosyncratic preferences' [2009: 70].

Socialising through music is something that has occurred for hundreds of years, and it is something that many believe is hardwired into our existence as human beings. Within the peer


environment at school, it acts as a medium to connect through, and can provide instant identification and topics of discussion; 'popular music is seen as one of the several distinct and often competing agents of socialising' [Christenson et al. 1998: 31]. Adolescents can and actively use music as identifying factors when socialising with others. This peer-group network is vital in social identity development, as 'adolescents make group-based social comparisons in order to secure a positive evaluation of their peer groups, and hence maintain a positive self-concept' [Tarrant et al. 2002: 111]. His statement could mean to say that they use other groups as a way of reinforcing their own group choice, viewing theirs as elite or better, thus enhancing their own selfimage. Lamont describes these 'social comparisons [as] more important in older children's more specialised identities' [2002: 43]. In this way, they look to others for guidance and assistance in defining their character into something liked by their peers and others around them.

Sharing music is an important part of this, and with the technological age, it has never been easier to introduce friends and peers to new music. Holbrook and Schindler [1989] argue that familiarity from frequent exposure, such as sharing of music in a college dorm, will develop musical taste. Laughey found that 41% of the 96 people he tested exchanged music. Looking further at his work, one interviewee when asked about her musical preferences stated that she was 'more inspired by her friends...if your friends made a tape and you hear it and you like it then it's inspired by that.' [2006: 136]. Interestingly, my questionnaire results differed, in that approximately 55% disagreed that if their friend at school liked an artist, they would like them too. This could go with the conventional idea that people may not wish to appear conformist, or prefer the idea of selfdiscovery, even in something such as music artists.

It was during the 1920's that peer youth culture began to develop in the United States, mainly through college life and institutions. Paula Fass described conformity as 'the glue of campus life'. [Paula Fass in Frith 1983]. These groups were a way for individuals to defi ne themselves from others, and music is one of the largest identifying factors. It is a time when conformity and groups are of paramount importance.

Adolescence is the high-water mark for group prejudice, when caste and class lines are sharply drawn and inclusions and exclusions are absolute...striking contrast


to that of middle childhood when an individual was included merely because he was handy or had a desired skill [Wenar 1971: 301].

Wenar's statement is one that shows how our social needs and desires change as we grow up. In childhood, children who were good at sports or skilled in some way were the most included/liked, and although this does continue for many into secondary school, socio-cultural factors become much more apparent. Wenar also argues that this conforming to the group is more than it 'has been before or will be again...though adolescents may be united in their defi ance of adults, they are conventional in their own peer culture – quite literally so, since they vigorously uphold the conventions of their chosen group'. This conformity and loyalty is at is strongest with their peers groups, and he adds that 'they champion fads in style and taste as if they were a matter of principle, and punish slight deviations with ridicule' [1971: 301]. These 'fads' he refers to could be in regards to clothing, hair and other identifying features that adolescents use.

Looking back at the work of Erikson again, he also talks about how groups and cliques 'insistently test each others capacity for sustaining loyalties in the midst of inevitable confl icts of values' [1968: 133]. What we could take Erikson to mean by this is that adolescents are constantly challenged with ideologies and strong opinions from opposing groups, and their upholding of the group's practises and behaviours is important.

Frith research examined particular groups within the school, and he found that one group, the 'Hairies' (long haired Hippies) tried to move away from the simple peer group.

'They differentiated themselves from the masses as a self-conscious elite by displaying exclusive musical tastes. Their tastes weren't just a matter of identifi cation, they also reflected a different – more serious, more intense – relationship to music...transcended the trivialities of teenage style' [1983: 208].

This group clearly try to distance themselves from other social groups, attempting to show an elite taste, much more detailed and intelligently chosen than others.


Adolescents are often prone to popular trends and they see them to help 'establish a clear line of demarcation from adults' [Conger 1991: 282]. It is clearly important for them to distinguish themselves in unique ways. This idea of 'uniqueness' or 'individuality' is often sought after, and it is the different perspectives of the observer that determines what one might see as conformity or a bold exercise in individuality. Erikson thought that adolescents were so preoccupied with these fads that they lost sight of the real truth behind forming their personalities; 'more concerned with faddish attempts at establishing an adolescent subculture with what looks like a fi nal rather than a transitory, or, in fact, initial identity formation' [1968: 128]. Their appearance and presentation to the world is highly important, and they are 'sometimes morbidly preoccupied with what they appear to be in the eyes of others as compared with what they feel they are' [1968: 128].

Peer culture during adolescence can be confusing to outsiders, as the looks, attitudes and behaviours of youths within group culture can seem ridiculous or strange, particularly to adults. 'Parents are often mystified, and in some cases threatened, by the shifting trappings of adolescent peer culture – from fashion in clothes and music to special and rapidly changing vocabularies [Conger 1991: 283]. Laughey describes these alternative tastes as being 'displayed to others through these music consumers' unconventional clothes and hairstyles in ways akin to promenade performances' [2006: 137]. From these statements alone we can see how important the way we style and dress can affect a person's integration with a peer group and how they appear to the outside world. 'It tells others who a person is and what group he or she belongs to' [Christenson et al. 1998: 100]. Frith's research however, found that some people felt that dress-style was often a matter of convenience, with some saying they wore the clothes associated with a particular genre, but did not like the music. [1983]. It is possible the adolescents in question still associated with their friends from childhood, and had not 'musically' made the transition themselves, but their friends and the group they belonged to had.

Parents often associate these behaviours with phases or brief moments of satisfaction from these groups, and although for some it is just a group they can associate for a small period of their teenage life with, and many move away from 'obvious' displays of devotion to them in older life, it appears that initially it must be a blatant expression; their peers and adults alike must know their attitudes and opinions, and this is a way to express them effi ciently. The parents may see the


adolescent as conforming to the larger peer group, whilst the adolescent himself sees it as a way of being apart from his parents and other adults [Conger 1991]. These sub-cultures often overtake family in importance and influencing factor, as they seemingly provide the right qualities and traits.

Chapter 4


The questionnaire (see Appendix A) was distributed mainly to university students, asking them to rate certain statements by how strongly they either agreed or disagreed with them. A total of 217 people took the questionnaire, with many of the statements relating to adolescence, school environments or family relationships. The nature and aim of the questionnaire was to get an idea of the general opinions people had of their youth and the role of music within it, and the results of some statements were pre-meditated, or phrased in a particular way to provoke a response.

When asked to rate the statement 'I was forced to listen to my parents' music as a child/growing up, and now I hate it', nearly 90% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed. The majority also agreed that they still listened to their parents music now. It is interesting to fi nd that most people either enjoyed or at least tolerated their parents' music style growing up, whereas as stated before, the representation in the media, particularly in earlier years, such as during the 1950's-1970's when youth culture was developing in Europe and the USA, many teens sought to actively repel their parents' style of music. Two ideas could be constructed from these results. It could suggest that adolescents have become much more accepting of their parents' music taste in modern years, or perhaps that with technological developments and their increasingly early interactions with it, they are able to access and develop their musical tastes much earlier than in the past.


When asked whether social status determines music taste, the majority of people did not feel it was an influencing factor. In today's society, social status could be seen as less important, particularly in determining something as simple as which genres you choose to listen to. As stated previously, some genres are associated with particular classes or social upbringings, and although this may be the case, respondents might feel that they would not like to be portrayed as having this opinion, even though it is a common assumption for some.

Focusing more on school and peer relations, one result stood out from the others. When asked to rate the statement 'I wanted to learn an instrument because my friends did the same ', over 70% of people disagreed or strongly disagreed. Instrument learning often begins in school environments, as it is an encouraged activity for building social relations and interacting with peers at an early age. These results could argue that it is not peer influence that causes instrumental learning necessarily, but most probably from other sources, such as parents or social interactions.

The results were split when asked if music determined friendship groups during their school life, and also when asked if they dressed or acted in particular ways according to their music taste during adolescence. Both these results were surprising, as stronger responses were expected. The role in which music plays in friendship groups in schools is something that may vary due to a number of factors, but from studies it arguably has a part to play in how friendships are formed. Dress codes in school and social cliques are fairly prominent in teen culture, particularly at school where individuality and friendship groups are key. In regards to peer culture, when asked to rate 'If a friend at school liked a certain artist, I would like them too', only 21% agreed. Again, this is an interesting result, and one explanation for this could be that people do not wish to be seen as trend-followers; they wish to have their own musical adventures and fi ndings, and do not want to appear influenced by others directly, especially during school life.

When correlating certain results, I found that the majority of people who answered either 'strongly disagreed' or disagreed' also responded similarly when asked whether they liked a particular style and dressed/acted appropriately. Nearly all also responded that music did not determine friendship groups at their school. This could indicate that for these people, music was not necessarily as large part of their school and social interaction. For some, it may be a stronger infl uence in friendships building and character development.


To broaden the data, it would be worthwhile to put some of the questions to primary and secondary school children separately, to see if the results varied. The primary school results would undoubtably show a weak connection musically with peers, as this appears later. It would also be interesting to see if there were any differences between British and American students. One point was clear from the study; music is still an important aspect of identity, with over 70% of respondents agreeing with this statement.


Our musical journey is a complex and lengthy process, littered with various infl uencing factors that change and fluctuate as we grow up. Its massive integration within society and our environments clearly indicate that it is more than just an entertainment force in our lives. It has so many functions and purposes, and we choose and modulate these to suit our desires.

Music is undoubtably one of the major factors in social interactions and identity development for children and adolescents. It can define their dress sense, hair styles, who they associate with and how they behave to others. They use it as a force to disseminate themselves from adults and parental figures. Family and the interactions with them musically appear to have an affect on many in determining taste, but it is not necessarily them who defi ne it. We could argue that it is dependent on how much the parent wants to influence music taste, through encouragement or otherwise, but it is apparent that although it does have some effect, it is not until adolescence where they will discover the majority of their taste for themselves. Many will deny parental influence on musical taste, and Laughey's [2006] research particularly shows that children and adolescents can describe experiences in the home and elsewhere, understanding that they have had some effect. Pressures from parents with any learning such as musical instruments will affect how a child behaves growing up. Parents may feel that by playing and encouraging certain styles,


instruments or genres it will develop their children in particular ways, but it can often drive them further away, as they strive even harder to fi nd their own identity and style away from the ones forced by their parents.

School is an environment where the majority of Western children spend youth, and their experiences during this time clearly have a large effect in identity formation. School often provides the first interactions with children of a similar age, and they bring with them new styles, ideas and cultures passed onto them by their own interactions elsewhere. The increasingly make selfcomparisons with others, or make note of what styles are accepted. Musical experiences within the school can be used to enhance social awareness, and strengthen relationships with friends.

Favouring of musical experiences outside the school environment appear to increase in adolescence, as many may begin to feel like they can relate to many of the artists they listen to, through the lyrics and musical style. Teenagers are often seen as choosing music that 'deliberately outrage their parents', and it could be that adolescents often choose music that has strong meaning. This could be because they are trying to develop their self personality, and without realising it, using this music to represent themselves to the outside world.

Culture and class proved to be complex areas to study in regards to musical preferences, as although there are common associations with certain genres and class, it is diffi cult to determine musical taste as being caused by class as such, as adolescents increasingly mix with people from many different backgrounds. In modern society, we have much more freedom to mix and interact with people from a variety of cultures than in previous years, and this could be a reason for this 'blurring' of class boundaries. The results from linking intelligence and music taste have proved to be varied, and it would be impossible to link the two in a concrete way; the number of external factors that influence supposed intelligence or performance in school is too vast.

Adolescence and the teenage years are monumental in the formation of identity, as they move from parents and other adults to their peers for guidance. They are searching for meaning and purpose, and they feel that music can provide some of these answers. They wish to appear individual and unique in their musical tastes, showing little or no sign of infl uence from others, particularly not their parents. They turn to social groups for acceptance, and these often centre


around music as a relating point. Their music taste is their own, and their personal musical journey to find 'their style' is important to them. Clearly, people listening to 'heavier' or 'darker' genres will not necessarily lead to dishonourable actions, and music with these strong ideas or opinions are not to blame for 'lost youth', particularly in adolescent's eyes. These genres provide them with enjoyment and gratifications, whilst sometimes providing a social aspect also.

Ultimately, it is the school and peer environments that appear to have some of the greatest effects, as they are prevailing at the height of identity formation. The myriad of smaller factors throughout the initial years of life have something to account for, but this is hugely dependent on personal factors for each individual.

Word Count – 11,315



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Web References

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