Adolescents with High Exposure to Rap Music Videos Exhibit Higher
Levels of Risky Health Behaviors
ATLANTA -- Risky behavior and a heightened incidence of sexually transmitted
diseases (STDs) among African-American female adolescents may be linked
to high exposure to rap music videos, according to a study in the March
issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Although there has been considerable
concern about the themes and images expressed in rap music videos, there
has been limited research on the impact of rap music videos on adolescents’
behavior, the article says. ‘Gangsta rap’ in particular, the researchers
say, "is explicit about sex and violence, but rarely shows the potential
long term adverse impact of these risky behaviors."
Gina M. Wingood, ScD, MPH,
of the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, and her colleagues
from Emory University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, assessed
the risky behaviors of teens who regularly watched rap videos. After
a twelve-month follow-up period, they calculated the adolescents’ involvement
in such behaviors such as: hitting teachers, fighting, being arrested,
using alcohol or drugs, and having multiple sex partners. The adolescents
were also asked to report condom use and were tested for three STDs
(chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea).
The study was conducted on
522 unmarried African-American female adolescents (aged 14-18 years)
who lived in non-urban, lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. They were
recruited from school health classes and county health department clinics.
The adolescents had to have been sexually active in the previous six
The researchers found that
adolescents with high exposure to rap music (i.e.. 14 hours or more
per week) were 3 times more likely to hit a teacher and more than 2.5
times as likely to have been arrested, compared with their peers who
had less exposure to rap music. Adolescents who frequently watched rap
videos were also twice as likely to have multiple sexual partners and
more than 1.5 times as likely to acquire an STD, use drugs, and use
alcohol during the 12-month study.
Dr. Wingood offers several
hypotheses as to why African-American female adolescents are particularly
prone to emulate the behavior seen on ‘gangsta’ rap music videos.
"At this stage in their socio-psychological
development, adolescents want to be autonomous and independent from
parental controls, an act that can be viewed as somewhat defiant. They
may also be modeling what they see as the norm. They pattern themselves
after their peers and the women they consider to be role models on the
videos," Dr. Wingood says. "On the other hand, it may be an attempt
to defy the white mainstream popular culture. Since rap music is more
ethnocentric, it is more closely associated with their social factors."
Researchers determined the
level of exposure to rap music videos based on the number of hours that
rap music videos were viewed on an average day multiplied by the number
of days in the week that the rap videos were viewed. They also assessed
the adolescents’ music viewing characteristics by determining the primary
type of rap music video and with whom and where the videos were watched.
Future studies on rap videos
should be conducted among different adolescent populations, the researchers
suggest. And since potentially important mediating factors such as adolescents’
degree of autonomy and independence, parental education, and influence
of peer social networks were not assessed, it is difficult to determine
whether the relationship between exposure to rap music videos and adolescents’
health status is causal.
"Additional research should
examine whether differences in the amount and type of rap music videos
viewed are associated with varying degrees of involvement in adverse
health risk behaviors by adolescents," Dr. Wingood says.
The study was supported by
a grant from the Center for Mental Health Research on AIDS/National
Institute of Mental Health.