Playing the Percentages: Music Preference and Substance Abuse

From a study by Mulder J, Ter Bogt TF, Raaijmakers QA, Gabhainn SN, Monshouwer K, Vollebergh WA:

A connection between preferences for heavy metal, rap, reggae, electronic dance music, and substance use has previously been established. However, evidence as to the gender-specific links between substance use and a wider range of music genres in a nationally representative sample of adolescents has to date been missing. In 2003, the Dutch government funded the Dutch National School Survey on Substance Use (DNSSSU), a self-report questionnaire among a representative school-based sample of 7,324 adolescents aged 12 to 16 years, assessed music preference, tobacco, and alcohol use and a set of relevant covariates related to both substance use and music preference. Overall, when all other factors were controlled, punk/hardcore, techno/hardhouse, and reggae were associated with more substance use, while pop and classical music marked less substance use. While prior research showed that liking heavy metal and rap predicts substance use, in this study a preference for rap/hip-hop only indicated elevated smoking among girls, whereas heavy metal was associated with less smoking among boys and less drinking among girls. The types of music that mark increased substance use may vary historically and cross-culturally, but, in general, preferences for nonmainstream music are associated positively with substance use, and preferences for mainstream pop and types of music preferred by adults (classical music) mark less substance use among adolescents [emphasis added]. As this is a correlational study no valid conclusions in the direction of causation of the music-substance use link can be drawn.

Parents are the most important models of behavior, as anyone who was followed around a toddler knows. Children imitate their parents’ behaviour and preferences. I like to play it safe with my loved ones, so even though this study cannot show that preferences for certain music cause problem behaviors, it’s clear that if you play the odds, classical music is less likely to be associated with substance abuse than other types of music. So if you’re a parent, you improve your child’s chances to avoid substance abuse by listening to classical music at home and helping them enjoy it(and improve those chances even more by enrolling them in classical music lessons!)

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