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Music, Substance Use, and Aggression

Meng-Jinn Chen, Brenda A. Miller, Joel W. Grube, Elizabeth D. Waiters

Objective: This study investigated whether young people’s substance use and aggressive behaviors are related to their listening to music containing messages of substance use and violence. Method: Using self-administered questionnaires, data were collected from a sample of community-college students, ages 15-25 years (N = 1,056; 57% female). A structural equation model (maximum likelihood method) was used to simultaneously assess the associations between listening to various genres of music and students’ alcohol use, illicit-drug use, and aggressive behaviors. Respondents’ age, gender, race/ethnicity, and level of sensation seeking were included in the analyses as control variables. Results: Listening to rap music was significantly and positively associated with alcohol use, problematic alcohol use, illicit-drug use, and aggressive behaviors when all other variables were controlled. In addition, alcohol and illicit-drug use were positively associated with listening to musical genres of techno and reggae. Control variables (e.g., sensation seeking, age, gender and race/ethnicity) were significantly related to substance use and aggressive behaviors. Conclusions: The findings suggest that young people’s substance use and aggressive behaviors may be related to their frequent exposure to music containing references to substance use and violence. Music listening preference, conversely, may reflect some personal predispositions or lifestyle preferences. There is also the possibility that substance use, aggression, and music preference are independent constructs that share common “third factors.” (J. Stud. Alcohol 67: 373-381, 2006)