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More Than A Feeling?

Music Genre Preferences and School Grades of American Youth

Brent Bannon Stanford University

Paper presented at the 56th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Dresden, Germany, June 2006.

Acknowledgements The author would like to extend his gratitude to Don Roberts for providing the data, inspiration and feedback without which this paper would not have been possible. Thanks also to Daniel Schneider for his many invaluable suggestions. Correspondence should be addressed to Brent Bannon, Department of Communication, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, Brent Bannon (M.Sc., London School of Economics (UK)) is a PhD student in the Department of Communication at Stanford University.

More Than A Feeling? Music Genre Preferences and School Grades of American Youth Abstract American children listen to a variety of genres of music. While attention often focuses on issues of aggression and violence, there may be subtler effects. This study investigates possible relationships between genre preferences and school grades. The study employs a representative sample of American seventhtwelfth graders. First, exploratory factor analyses are conducted using the different genres listened to by respondents. A structure of genre preferences is proposed, and differences between white and non-white respondents are explored. Using the groupings suggested by the factor analysis, regression analyses are used to investigate whether there are any associations between school grades obtained and genres. Results indicate that different groups might have different interpretations of some genres asked about. In particular white and non-white students appear to have different interpretations of the term rhythm and blues or soul. A significant positive relationship is also found between listening to some uncontroversial tame music forms and high school grades, despite demographic controls. This relationship warrants further investigation.

More Than A Feeling? Music Genre Preferences and School Grades of American Youth Communication researchers have for some time concerned themselves with the media consumption behavior of children and adolescents (Christenson, DeBenedittis, & Lindlof, 1985). Such research has long focused on television, often overlooking other important media in the lives of those yet to enter the adult world. A search of ComAbstracts using television and children yields over 500 results, while a search for music and children yields only 29, illustrating the imbalance. And yet pop and rock music consumption begins early in childhood and increases as children develop (Christenson, 1994; Greer, Dorow, & Randall, 1974). Undoubtedly music listening accounts for a large proportion of adolescents media-related activity. Over twenty years ago a study comparing television viewing with music listening of a sample of Chicago high school students found that while music was the main focus of attention one-fifth as often as televisionMusic is more frequently used as background. (Larson & Kubey, 1983:19). This study took into account music listening as a secondary as well as a primary activity. It is often assumed that television is used more widely by adolescents because selfreports only consider one activity at a time. As has been argued (Christenson & Roberts, 1998) though, music often provides the soundtrack for other activities. As technology proliferates and adolescents involve themselves in unprecedented levels of multitasking music may be battling for attention with three or more other activities. When respondents are directed to include background music in their total listening time, children spend considerably more time listening to music than they do watching television (Roberts & Henrikson, 1990). A recent nationally representative sample of US third to twelfth grade students found that most kids often use

two or more media simultaneously, and it appears that they engage in media multitasking during at least a quarter of their media exposure time. (Roberts, Foehr, & Rideout, 2005:39). While television has received the lions share of communication researchers attention regarding childrens media use, that does not mean that research into use of music media has been completely absent. There have been many studies into the possible causes and effects of the music listening behavior of children (for a thorough review see (Christenson & Roberts, 1998)). The issue often makes waves in the mainstream media as politicians, concerned parents and other interest groups panic over the threat this insidious form of entertainment poses to our children, indeed to the very fabric of society as we know it e.g. (Gore, 1988). Witness media coverage of the role of music in high profile teen shootings such as occurred in Columbine, Colorado and Red Lake, Minnesota (e.g. Powers, 1999). The popular assumption is often one of powerful effects causing undesirable behavior, normally violence or suicide (Rosenbaum & Prinsky, 1991). This assumption has led to legal action against the perpetrators of objectionable music such as UK heavy metal stars Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest (Economist, 1988). Claims that exposure to certain types of music may cause aggressive behavior and suicidal tendencies are not borne out by research in the field. In the case of heavy metal, a music genre attracting a large share of the research into possible effects of music exposure research does not suggest that upon exposure kids will develop a desire to harm others or themselves, but rather adolescents with certain backgrounds and personality traits may be drawn to heavy metal, with its powerful, raucous beats and, usually, antiestablishment themes, and that for some of them there may be undesirable effects e.g. (Arnett, 1991; Gross, 1990; Lacourse, Claes, & Villeneuve, 2001; Martin, Clarke, & Pearce, 1993). While such effects may grab the headlines,

parents and observers of society may have more legitimate, if less dramatic concerns. Exposure to music may not cause the average adolescent to become a felon but there may be other worrying effects. The genres of music adolescents are drawn to can be indicative of anticipated school future, social status expectations and aspirations (Roe, 1992). This raises concerns about possible effects of music exposure on academic performance. This study aims to investigate relationships between music genres and whether musical preferences of children can predict academic performance as indicated by school grades. Arguably, time spent with music media could eat into time that would otherwise be budgeted for homework. While this appears reasonable it is likely that such an effect would be more likely for activities requiring more direct attention, like television, than music which is often in the background. Beyond simply time spent with music though is the type of music. Is it possible that listening to rock music or todays subversive genre, rap, could indicate differential academic performance? It is possible that some music genres are more distracting than others particularly if homework is just one element of multitasking. There is also evidence to suggest that viewing Rap videos can lead to deferred academic aspirations (Johnson, Jackson, & Gatto, 1995) for example, although it is by no means clear that the music alone, bereft of images, would have the same effect. The Importance of Genres Music could have an impact on listeners through different mechanisms. The first is through content alone. Past studies have therefore focused on lyrical content and the interpretation of lyrics by children and adults (Leming, 1987; Wolfe & Haefner, 1996) or contextual interpretation of lyrics and video images (Brown & Schulze, 1990). If mere exposure

to lyrical content is key then over time we could be dealing with a music media version of cultivation theory (Gerbner & Gross, 1976; Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorielli, & Shanahan, 2002). Cultivation refers to the overall television diet over time rather than specific television genres though, and so listening patterns across genres may be key, although it is not clear that genre distinctions can be made on the basis of lyrical content alone. While the lyrical traditions of some genres may be distinct from one another, as is the case with country music and rap (Ryan, Calhoun III, & Wentworth, 1996), others may not be so. Certainly it would be useful to determine the proportions of music listened to that promote particular representations of the world for different groups of listeners, and indeed the amount of exposure over long periods of time. Hansen and Hansen take somewhat of a cultivation perspective in a study that demonstrated differences in attitudinal constructs of heavy metal and punk fans (Hansen & Hansen, 1991) A second way that effects could operate is through general interpretations of the meaning carried in certain musical forms as personified by proponents of those genres. While lyrics may initially be important in forming the basis for such shared interpretations, other factors such as the dominant characteristics of the personae developed by leading proponents of the genre may also shape this perception. For example without having actually heard the Sex Pistols music, their antiestablishment stance could easily be discerned from the performances and public appearances of Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, or even the titles of their albums. A third mechanism involves a cognitive dimension. With perceptions, or schemata, of what a certain artist or genre represents it may be possible for people to be influenced by music irrespective of the lyrics. Identification of proponents or characteristic elements of the sound such as time signatures and rhythmic variation, predominant use of particular scales, and vocal

style may be sufficient to cue a particular schema. One study found that Christian heavy metal exposure and more sexually aggressive (lyrically) heavy metal exposure both resulted in significantly greater acceptance by male college students of violence towards women than did exposure to classical music (St. Lawrence & Joyner, 1991). There was no significant difference between the sexually aggressive heavy metal and the non-aggressive Christian metal. It is possible that the heavy metal sound alone caused the psychological schema of heavy metal to be activated regardless of lyrical content. A fourth possibility is that, irrespective of cognitive processing, properties inherent in the overall sound of certain musical styles may cause affective responses. People display consistent preferences for particular sonic intervals (Farnsworth, 1969). The blues note that transforms a minor pentatonic scale into a blues scale is said to create a sadder sound, hence the name blues. Certain intervals sound bright while others sound mellow and music certainly has the ability to sound upbeat or melancholy. If the overall sound of music can energize, or rev up as one heavy metal fan put it (Arnett, 1991:83), without recourse to lyrics or schema relating to the genre at hand then different genres could potentially have different affective results. We have probably all encountered a piece of music that is capable of provoking an emotional response. Music listening could also function through a relationship with the listeners motivations to listen and the nature of their listening behavior and the gratifications thereby obtained. In this scenario, certain genres might have effects which are moderated, for example, by the particular motivations. Gratifications obtained could then be expected to feed back into the gratifications sought in future (Palmgreen, Wenner, & Rayburn II, 1980). The possibility that gratifications sought and obtained could play a part in determining the possible strength of effects of listening to a music genre suggest that an in-depth uses and gratifications approach to music preferences

of young people would be a useful line of inquiry (Rubin, 2002). An investigation of the motivations to listen, and the gratifications obtained for different genres could enlighten any theory of why particular genres have particular effects, or relationships to behavior. For example, if music is used for mood management (Christenson, 1994; Knobloch & Zillman, 2002) then we might expect to see different effects than if it is used merely on the basis of shared cultural interpretations, in order to gain cultural capital for example (Dykers, 1992). Mood management may heighten affective responses to music, while listening for social purposes may heighten effects based on shared cultural interpretations of genres. The current analysis is aimed at exploring possible relationships between the music genres that children listen to. Such an exploration may allow us to make some inferences about possible motivational structures, but without data on the motivations for choosing particular genres such inferences will need further confirmation. Method Data A representative national sample of 2,032 students in grades 3-12 completed written questionnaires administered in schools between October 14, 2003 and March 19, 2004. Sampling and data collection were conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc. on behalf of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only students in grades 7-12 were asked about music genres leaving a sample of 1,205 for this study. More information regarding the sampling design and questionnaire employed can be found in (Roberts et al., 2005:67-102). Note that measures of time spent on particular activities were based on the day before the questionnaire. The

distribution of days referred to is as follows: Monday 14%; Tuesday 19%; Wednesday 17%; Thursday 18%; Friday 8%; Saturday 10%; and Sunday 13%.

Measures Genres: Respondents were asked if they had listened to music the previous day, the listen to music variable was coded 1 if they answered yes, 0 if they said no. Students who indicated that they had listened to music were asked which genres they had listened to as follows: What types of music, either on CDs, tapes, MP3s or radio broadcasts, did you listen to yesterday? (CIRCLE AS MANY ANSWERS AS YOU NEED.) The 16 types of music were as follows: Alternative Rock; Classic Rock; Classical; Country & Western; Gospel or Christian Music; Hard Rock or Metal; Jazz or Blues; Latin or Salsa; Rap or Hip Hop; Rave or Techno Rock; Reggae; Rhythm & Blues or Soul; Ska or Punk; Soft Rock; Top 40; Something else. As such students indicated one or more types of music that they had listened to the previous day. Demographic Variables: A dummy variable for gender, male, was coded 1 if male, 0 if female. A dummy variable for race, white, was coded 1 if white, 0 if non-white. Respondents school grade, year in school (grades 7-12) were rescaled from 0 to 1. Students were asked, what is the highest level of school your mother completed? and likewise for fathers. Options were: some high school; finished high school; some college or special school after high school; finished college; school beyond college. The higher of the two, or one if only one was available, were recoded from 0 to1 for the parental education variable. The dummy for low income was coded 1 if median income was less than $35,000 and 0 otherwise. The dummy for high income was coded 1 if median income was $50,000 or more. Medium income ($35,000 $50,000) was omitted in the regressions. These data refer to median income by

respondents zip codes rather than individual level income data reflecting social environment rather than SES. Time Budget and Media-Related Variables: With finite time it follows that any time spent on other activities could detract from time spent on homework which may be one predictor of academic achievement. Previous studies testing the displacement hypothesis have not been forthcoming (Christenson & Roberts, 1998:192). Respondents that indicated they had watched television the previous day were asked to specify for how long they had watched television the previous morning, afternoon, and evening. These times were summed and rescaled from 0 to 1 to create the time spent viewing television variable. All respondents were asked, thinking about yesterday, about how much time did you spend reading a book that was for your own enjoyment (not a homework assignment)? They were also asked about time spent reading magazines and newspapers. These times were summed and recoded from 0 to 1 to create the time spent reading for pleasure variable. Students that indicated that they had listened to music the previous day answered the following question: People often listen to CDs, tapes or MP3s while they are doing other things (for example, eating, getting dressed, doing homework, walking or riding in a car or bus). Thinking only about yesterday, about how much total time did you spend listening to CDs, tapes, or MP3s? Responses were coded from 0 to 1 to create the time spent listening to music variable. While this question deliberately focuses on the audio element only it is inevitable that some time spent television viewing, notably MTV but also background music in dramas, while not being visually attended to (e.g. in the background while working on homework) is not accounted for by this metric.


Grades and Number of Friends: Grades obtained at school were measured by the following item: What grades do you usually get? The grades variable was obtained by coding the responses: mostly As, mostly As and Bs, mostly Bs, mostly Bs and Cs, mostly Cs, mostly Cs and Ds, mostly Ds, mostly Ds and Fs uniformly with 1 representing mostly As and 0 representing mostly Ds and Fs. The number of friends item relates to the statement I have a lot of friends. Respondents were asked to say whether the statement is a lot like me; somewhat like me; not much like me; or not at all like me. Although this does not explicitly ask how many friends the respondent has, strong agreement is taken as indicating lots of friends and so this variable was coded uniformly from 0 to 1 with a lot like me at 1, and not at all like me at 0.

Results Genre Groupings There were sixteen different types of music that respondents could indicate that they had listened to. As Figure 1 shows, a majority of students in grades 7-12 that had listened to music the day before the interview indicated that they listened to more than one type (69.6%). While 30.5% listened to a single genre 52.2% listened to two, three, or four different genres. If a majority of school children listen to multiple genres then we should consider how these genres relate to each other. Factor analysis has been employed with some success to identify different groupings of musical genres (Christenson & Peterson, 1988; Hakanen & Wells, 1993; Roe, 1985; Wells & Tokinoya, 1998). Factor analysis in this case is particularly interesting because the data are from a nationally representative sample which, though exploratory, lends itself to generalizability relatively more so than previous studies.


This case is also slightly different in that the data available show multiple genres listened to and do not include preference ratings of the genres. This allows an exploration of which groupings of musical genres young people simply listen to. This could also mitigate issues of social desirability bias that may arise when young people rate genres. It also allows us to focus on a closer indicator of behavior, while allowing us to draw some conclusions about taste. Stated behavior has been found to correlate highly with self-reported musical preferences (Fink, Robinson, & Dowden, 1985). The current data consist of dichotomous variables so tetrachoric correlations are obtained for use in the factor analysis (Edwards & Edwards, 1984). One music type, something else was excluded, as it was a catchall for anything not covered by the other options, and the respondent-proffered genres were unavailable. Using fifteen of the music types presented in the survey, a tetrachoric correlation matrix is obtained which is not positive definite. In order to obtain a positive definite matrix a smoothing function was applied (Knol & Berger, 1991). A principle components factor analysis was utilized resulting in five distinct genre groupings (eigenvalue > 1). A varimax rotation was performed, creating independent factors. Table 1 shows the factor scores and each factors explained variance. The five factors explain a total of 75.55% of the variance in the data. The first factor has been labeled sophisticated music as the genres collected on this factor appear to be those that include sophisticated musical structures and/or important cultural ingredients (in the cases of Latin or Salsa, and Reggae which is arguably the more sophisticated source from which Punk developed). One strange element of this factor is the inclusion of rhythm and blues or soul. R&B is a term that is widely used today to refer to a black music form closer to hip hop than to traditional rhythm and blues and soul. It might be expected


therefore that rhythm and blues or soul would be more likely to load with rap or hip hop. It is my contention however that as the questionnaire stated Rhythm & Blues or Soul it is quite possible that the students surveyed are by and large unaware of the connection between rhythm and blues and R&B. If that is so then this genre may be measuring a very similar thing to the Jazz or Blues category. [INSERT TABLE 1] The second factor clearly consists of the harder forms of rock music and has hence been labeled simply rock. A question mark remains over the Rave or Techno Rock category. While rave and techno clearly refer to electronic dance music genres it is unclear what is meant by techno rock. It appears from this grouping that this may be an inappropriate way to group these genres as the word rock could be cuing respondents that this is some form of rock rather than dance music. The third grouping includes country and western, soft rock, and top 40 music. These music forms are widespread, easily accessible, and share a general lack of controversy; in a word they are tame. The fourth and fifth factors consist of a single genre each. Given what has been said about the placement of rhythm and blues, rap or hip hop stands alone as an urban black music form. Likewise, gospel or Christian music seems to share little with any other music type in the current list, being the only religion-oriented option. Previous research has suggested that race is a particularly strong predictor of musical preferences, more so in fact than any other demographic variable (Denisoff & Levine, 1972). It


would therefore be prudent to investigate whether the same factors exist for white and non-white students. The same procedure was followed as before for white students only, and again some smoothing of the correlation matrix was necessary. The factor loadings and explained variances are detailed in Table 2 along with the percentages of white students listening to each music-type. A four-factor solution was obtained with a selection criteria of eigenvalues > 1. The first factor captures the sophisticated music forms once again, with the notable addition of classic rock. While classic rock, at first glance, doesnt appear to have much in common with the others in this factor it is quite possible that to young white people music by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin is perceived as very different, and perhaps more complex, than say Limp Bizkit, the Killers, or Blink 182. In fact it could be argued that classic rock is closer to its blues roots than to modern rock. This would explain why for white kids classic rock does not fit into a diet of contemporary rock music. It is also possible that this factor is capturing traditional music forms, not only in the context of cultural meaning but also more simply in terms of how long they have been around. Classic rock is a somewhat ambiguous term that seems to capture old rock. For some youngsters anything pre-1990 may be consigned to the realms of dad rock only to be listened to by people who like other ancient music forms like jazz, blues and classical. Another interesting finding is that rhythm and blues or soul loads even more unequivocally in this group for white students than for the whole sample. [INSERT TABLE 2] The second factor, rock, captures the harder rock forms once again. The third factor captures the tame, uncontroversial music forms as before except that top 40 no longer fits here while gospel or Christian music does. White respondents may well have been drawn to this type


by Christian music rather than gospel. Certainly one could argue that Christian music is uncontroversial, more so perhaps than the top 40 music of such scantily clad performers as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Beyonc Knowles. The fourth factor, urban black, consists of rap or hip hop and top 40 for the white students surveyed. It is likely, given the relationship of rhythm and blues or soul in this study, that the top 40 category is the only music type that captures modern R&B and soul for white respondents. If that is so this grouping still resembles an urban black music category. In fact top 40 loads above .3 for three factors in this case and so there is some doubt as to whether this genre is capturing anything valuable from white kids. If it simply captures popular genres that respondents struggle to place elsewhere, they may well mean very different things, as the discussion of non-white students makes clear. This finding suggests that researchers would do well to steer clear of top 40, as a simple measure of popularity is not suggestive of a specific genre. The same factor analysis was also performed for non-white students. The breakdown of this sample by race is: 35% African-American; 43% Hispanic/Latino; 13% Asian, Asian Indian or Pacific Islanders; 2% Native American or Alaskan Native; and 7% others. This analysis yields a five-factor solution, as detailed in Table 3. The first factor once again consists of the harder rock forms. In this case classical music loads almost equally on this factor and on the second factor, an anomally that is difficult to explain. The second factor for non-whites, classical aside, consists of what could be described as traditional black genres. If non-white students are drawn to gospel or Christian music by gospel, the set of gospel, jazz or blues, and reggae can be seen as distinctly traditional black music forms. The third factor contains the same tame music genres as for the overall sample. Where white students may have used top 40 to


catch modern R&B and soul, non-white students may be selecting this to represent fluffy pop of any kind. [INSERT TABLE 3] The most interesting result of splitting the sample regards rhythm and blues and soul. Whereas white students seem to be interpreting in a more traditional sense, perhaps even unaware of the link between the terms rhythm and blues and R&B, non-white kids apparently see this very differently. For non-whites rhythm and blues or soul loads primarily with rap and hip hop. While the factor loading for traditional black is still fairly high, for non-whites this is associated more strongly with rap and hip hop, suggesting a modern urban black scene. This raises a question regarding the use of this term in questionnaires about young peoples music preferences. It is likely, given that blues already appears in the jazz or blues field, that the questionnaire designers really intended to measure R&B in a contemporary sense. This result shows that while non-white students may share this interpretation, white kids do not. For different groups this music type could be picking up BB King, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown, or alternatively R Kelly, Beyonc Knowles, and Alicia Keys. Clearly such a broad range of artists should not be collected in one of sixteen possible genre options. This is particularly so if white students are also placing Beyonc in the top 40 category, while non-white students are also placing BB King in jazz or blues. The fifth factor consists only of Latin or salsa. Only 2.48% of white respondents claimed to have listened to Latin or salsa, while for non-whites this figure was 16 percentage points higher at 18.45%. So while for white students, only those with an interest in culturally significant forms of music may be drawn towards Latin and salsa, for non-whites and Hispanic


students in particular (76% of non-white Latin or salsa listeners were Hispanic), this music stands alone. Genre Effects If young people generally listen to more than one genre in any given day (as 69.6% of the current sample did), and where some genres actually reflect multiple genres to begin with, we have a strong case for grouping such genres together for analysis. If kids mostly listen to groups of genres, rather than just individual ones then that is the level at which we should proceed. Roe (1992) found that music preferences were related to Swedish adolescents perceptions of future social status and academic ambition. Using a nationally representative sample of American seventh through twelfth graders we can test the hypothesis that the music genres kids listen to have no impact on their school grades. The analysis proceeded as a series of four OLS regressions using heteroskedasticityrobust standard errors to overcome potential heteroskedasticity (White, 1980); results are presented in Table 4. In order to examine possible genre effects the factors obtained from the full sample were used, as they were more distinct and unambiguous than those obtained when broken out by race. The first model addresses the issue of whether simply listening to music or not influences school grades. Controls were included for gender, race, year in school, parental education, zip code income level, time spent reading for pleasure and with television, time spent with homework, and number of friends. Listening to music is not associated with any significant difference in grades. [INSERT TABLE 4]


Taking only those students that said they had listened to music the day before, Model 2 tests the hypothesis that time spent listening to music is not associated with school grades. The coefficient for time spent with music is significant ( = -.11; p = .005) so the null hypothesis is rejected. Without taking account of the types of music listened to, longer listening times are associated with lower school grades. With a significant coefficient for time spent with music, the next model set out to test whether this was dependent upon the types of music listened to. Each set of genres from Table 1 was coded as 0 if none of the genres was listened to, 1 if any one or more were. So if a respondent did not listen to classical, jazz or blues, Latin or salsa, reggae, or rhythm and blues or soul, sophisticated was coded 0, otherwise it was coded 1. Each genre group was also interacted with time spent listening. Each genre and overall time spent with music were included in the regression. The results in the third column of Table 4 show that none of the genre-time interactions was significant. However, listening to tame music (county and western, soft rock, top 40) is significantly related to higher grades ( = .06; p = .004). A final model was estimated, dropping the insignificant genre-time interactions and keeping only the overall time listening and dichotomous genre groupings. Model 4 shows a significant positive relationship between listening to tame music and grades obtained ( = .05; p = .002), and a significant negative relationship between overall time spent listening to music and grades ( = -.13; p = .001). With the demographic controls in place, there are no significant associations between the other genres and grades obtained. While the causal nature of the significant positive relationship of tame music to grades cannot be determined, it is likely a reflection of some latent construct shared by tame music listeners. With standard demographic variables controlled for though, it is clear that currently part of the puzzle is missing.


Discussion The differing relationship between music described as rhythm and blues or soul by race of respondents suggests that this term is a bad candidate for survey research into childrens music preferences. It is important that all respondents are answering the same question and in this case it appears that white and non-white seventh through twelfth graders have differing interpretations of the question at hand. In order to more accurately assemble meaningful groupings of music genres, for children at least, it may be worthwhile to be as specific as possible in future questionnaires. While children may view jazz and blues as practically one and the same, black children in particular may well differentiate between rap and hip hop for example. The discussion of the term rave and techno rock also suggests that it is not a good idea to roll low frequency genres together for convenience in data collection. Top 40 may serve as a catch-all for genres not well suited to other available categories, it appears that different groups of children, differing in ethnicity in this case, may have very different interpretations of the categories on offer and so may not mean the same thing by top 40. These findings suggest that extensive pre-testing with children in advance of wider survey administration is essential. While survey designers may be concerned about available space for multiple item genre lists, it is crucial that all respondents are answering the same question. It is also important that the researchers are clear about what genres mean to the respondents, not just themselves. Race is not the only issue. In the U.K. for example alternative rock is not as familiar a term as indie which is also used in the U.S. Extensive pre-testing equating proponents with genres may help, although crossover artists may still pose some problems. This need not be a major issue if the whole music diet of listeners is the goal.


Regression analysis suggests that while there is a negative relationship between the length of time spent listening to music and school grades, there is a positive relationship between listening to tame music forms and grades. Time spent with music could be time taken away from homework or it could contribute to distraction rendering time spent with homework unproductive. While this analysis does not establish a causal relationship between grades and tame music it is clear that more work needs to be done to understand this relationship. It is likely that the tame music factor is reflecting some spurious variable or else a form of mediation. Conceptually it is possible that tame music listening captures a characteristic of youth that is suggestive of compliance with authority in listening to relatively adult-approved musical forms that are easily accessible. This is a characteristic that may not be tapped by demographic controls alone. Also noteworthy, and reassuring for many concerned parents, is that in the presence of such controls, and in a nationally representative sample of American seventh to twelfth graders, there is no significant effect, negative or otherwise, on school grades of listening to urban black music, i.e. todays controversial music forms rap and hip hop. The exploratory factor analyses presented here are extremely valuable in grouping musical genres based on mere exposure of children. While we can speculate on the latent causes of such groupings we should investigate the motivations kids have for listening to certain types of music. Shared motivations are important to understand why certain youngsters are attracted to certain genres. Mood management is one motivation that may explain why certain children listen to certain types of music (Arnett, 1991; Christenson, 1994; Knobloch & Zillman, 2002; Zillmann, 2000). There are other possibilities but it is clear that if someone intends to use music for mood management and the music is capable of evoking an affective response then such an effect may be heightened based on the listeners motivation.


A uses and gratifications approach to the issue would likely yield greater insights into the motivations involved in musical preference structures of children, while also developing a picture of which of those motivations are satisfied. A survey devoted to the motivations for listening to certain music forms, the nature of involvement (e.g. how long do they spend listening to each genre? Do they listen to the lyrics of certain genres only? Do they idolize performers of certain genres? Do they multitask more with particular genres? What aspects of mood management relate to which genres? Do they share taste for different genres with different social groups, etc?), and the extent that particular genres satisfy particular motivations, would surely be a profitable endeavor. Armed with a more specific record of how much time individuals spend with specific genres, delineated more precisely through extensive pre-testing, it may be possible to identify the determinants of different musical preference structures, and thus associated, predictable effects of exposure.

Figure 1: Number of Genres Listened To

0 0


Frequency 100 150



5 Number of Genres



Table 1: Genres Percent Listening and Factor Loadings (N=861)

Genre % Listening 6.39 8.36 8.71 13.70 11.96 33.57 18.35 25.55 12.54 23.11 19.28 11.73 18.00 62.14 11.61 Factor 1 Sophisticated Music .77 .79 .77 .73 .66 -.02 .36 .10 .36 -.02 -.15 .34 .16 .08 .20 21.65 % Factor 2 Rock .38 .20 -.16 .14 -.25 .80 .54 .80 .66 .83 .04 .29 .11 -.11 .00 20.64 % Factor 3 Tame Music .19 .20 .05 -.22 .11 .24 .17 .02 .16 .02 .75 .73 .73 .13 .10 12.68 % Factor 4 Urban Black -.13 -.20 .17 .51 .37 -.24 -.47 -.08 .27 -.01 -.10 .07 .23 .92 .03 11.64 % Factor 5 Christian .16 .29 -.23 .12 .30 .00 -.12 -.18 -.01 .21 .39 .02 -.09 -.02 .91 8.94 %

Classical Jazz or Blues Latin or Salsa Reggae Rhythm & Blues or Soul Alternative Rock Classic Rock Hard Rock or Metal Rave or Techno Rock Ska or Punk Country & Western Soft Rock Top 40 Rap or Hip Hop Gospel or Christian music Explained Variance

Table 2: Genres Percent Listening and Factor Loadings for White Students Only (N=525)


% Listening 6.10 8.38 2.48 8.19 5.71 24.38 41.90 30.67 13.14 28.95 26.67 11.05 12.95 55.05 19.43 Explained Variance

Factor 1 Sophisticated Music .80 .79 .89 .79 .80 .59 .15 .16 .45 .09 .01 .26 .45 .10 .39 29.04 %

Factor 2 Rock .21 .11 .15 .19 -.05 .29 .78 .73 .58 .79 -.05 .00 .29 -.09 .06 16.01 %

Factor 3 Tame Music .08 .14 .29 -.29 .25 -.09 .18 -.15 -.11 .01 .85 .70 .58 .01 .33 13.26 %

Factor 4 Urban Black -.16 -.22 .20 .33 .20 -.046 -.21 -.08 .33 -.01 .09 -.18 .16 .91 .50 11.74 %

Classical Jazz or Blues Latin or Salsa Reggae Rhythm & Blues or Soul Classic Rock Alternative Rock Hard Rock or Metal Rave or Techno Rock Ska or Punk Country & Western Gospel or Christian music Soft Rock Rap or Hip Hop Top 40

Table 3: Genres Percent Listening and Factor Loadings for Non-White Students Only (N=336)


% Listening 20.54 8.93 17.56 11.60 13.99 6.85 12.50 8.33 22.32 7.74 9.82 15.78 73.21 21.73 18.45

Factor 1 Rock .89 .92 .87 .68 .74 .60 -.15 .28 .08 .21 .53 .13 -.04 -.19 .01 28.36 %

Factor 2 Traditional Black -.09 .05 -.03 .40 .16 .58 .83 .78 .54 .22 -.01 .06 .00 .54 .00 16.33 %

Factor 3 Tame .09 .04 .13 .25 .28 .22 .01 .26 -.18 .78 .56 .86 .03 .14 .08 13.33 %

Factor 4 Urban Black -.15 .10 -.09 .13 -.25 .09 .03 -.01 .44 .11 .38 -.06 .97 .63 -.03 12.16 %

Factor 5 Latin -.08 .04 .11 .00 .01 .34 -.25 .33 .52 .01 .18 .05 -.02 .01 .98 10.01 %

Alternative Rock Classic Rock Hard Rock or Metal Rave or Techno Rock Ska or Punk Classical Gospel or Christian music Jazz or Blues Reggae Country & Western Soft Rock Top 40 Rap or Hip Hop Rhythm & Blues or Soul Latin or Salsa Explained Variance

Table 4: OLS Regressions: music use and self-reported school grades

Grades Listen to Music Time Spent Listening to Music Sophisticated Rock Tame Rap Christian Sophisticated x Time Rock x Time Tame x Time Rap x Time Christian x Time Male White Year in school (grades 7-12) Parental Education Low Income High Income Time Spent Reading for Pleasure Time Spent Viewing Television Time Spent with Homework Number of Friends Constant N R2

Model 1 .004 (.015) ------------.073*** (.013) .036** (.014) .052* (.022) .189*** (.025) -.026 (.018) .009 (.015) .074 (.090) .039 (.045) .214*** (.053) .062+ (.034) .493*** (.040) 1,142 .132

Model 2 --.114** (.041) -----------.085*** (.015) .041* (.016) .062* (.026) .170*** (.028) -.047* (.022) -.002 (.017) .170 (.113) .032 (.053) .251*** (.065) .076* (.037) .516*** (.044) 813 .155

Model 3 --.074 (.121) .019 (.023) .028 (.022) .063** (.022) -022 (.023) .013 (.030) -.007 (.097) -.059 (.082) -.079 (.090) .018 (.105) -.022 (.108) -.079*** (.016) .029 (.017) .054* (.026) .162*** (.028) -.046* (.023) .000 (.017) .161 (.119) .045 (.054) .214** (.068) .070+ (.037) .506*** (.049) 813 .169

Model 4 --.134*** (.041) .016 (.016) .017 (.017) .049** (.015) -.019 (.016) .009 (.022) ------.079*** (.016) .028 (.017) .055* (.026) .164*** (.028) -.046* (.023) .000 (.017) .153 (.117) .046 (.053) .218** (.068) .072+ (.037) .514*** (.045) 813 .168

p < 0.10; * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.001; Standard errors in parentheses (heteroskedasticity-consistent, HC3)


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