Sex Music and Children

The topic of the relationship between music and behaviour has been a controversial one for some time. In this discussion, there are essentially two sides to this coin, but there are a few opinions remaining on the rim. The two sides can be simply articulated like this: music has a great impact on us as humans, it affects our minds, perceptions, values and behaviours. While those on the other side believe our attitudes and perceptions are so far removed from music that it has no effect on us and it is solely for entertainment. Then there are those on the rim, who remain undecided, possibly because of internal conflicts or because they have not been given substantiating proof to believe either side. This post serves as a discussion on the different perspectives and themes concerned with this largely controversial topic. This discussion is centered around the Jamaican context with specific emphasis on pre-adolescent children.

Discussions about this issue has resurfaced in light of a few public figures making statements regarding this area.Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, Opposition Spokesperson on Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna and Dancehall selector, DJ Squeeze have all recently shared their views on the impact of dancehall music and culture. I therefore find this examination of the ideas related to this topic a relevant one, especially in regard to children.

Music in Jamaica

It might be an important addition to provide context of Jamaican music. The Jamaican music landscape is far reaching, with about 40 radio stations on the island,with a large fraction being music stations. Quite often, travelling in public transportation will give you the opportunity to experience Jamaican music. So what is the content of frequently played or top songs like?

Content Analysis on Popular Jamaican songs

I did a brief informal content analysis on the lyrics for top 10 songs from Tvj’s ER Countdown. In this informal analysis I chose 10 of the most recurring songs on the list for a 3 month period and looked for repeated themes and grouped them. The popular themes included: Social issues, explicit or implicit sexual content, partying and violence.

Music and Culture

In an attempt to provide adequate grounds for discussion, I believe it was important to consider the role music plays in culture,generally and more specifically, Jamaica. Plato stated ‘Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited. When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.” This radicalist view might not be held by the majority, but there are those who believe that music and the arts are a large part of shaping culture. In a book called “Culture and the Art Forms: From Art Worlds to Art In-Action” by Sophia Krzys Acord and Tia Denora, they stated this of art and music, “First, the arts are communicative, expressive, and meaning-laden objects that influence human behavior and structure human experience in social settings.Second, artistic objects are social texts representing shared values or belief systems.”So I wanted a Jamaican perspective on the role and implications of music in the Jamaican cultural context.

Dr. Hitchins, Ethnomusicologist from the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Children and Music

Dr. Hitchins made an excellent point, does enough data exist to show a direct link between music and behaviour, especially in regard to children and specifically those in Jamaica. There have been studies done in Netherlands that have revealed relevant information regarding this subject. One such study was published in 2012 by Tom F.M. ter Bogt, PhD,a Loes Keijsers, PhD,b and Wim H.J. Meeus, PhDb. The name of the study was “Early Adolescent Music Preferences and Minor Delinquency,” and the design of the research was a 4-year longitudinal study. It was done to “test Music Marker Theory (MMT) positing that early adolescents’ preferences for types of popular music indicate concurrent and later minor delinquency.”The results revealed that popular music in Netherlands,particularly rock,heavy metal and African American music “showed elevated minor delinquency concurrently and longitudinal.” Though this research didn’t particularly look at the subject with focus on sexuality, the results established relationship with music and children and adolescents. There was another study entitled “Sexualization in lyrics of popular music from 1959 to 2009: Implications for sexuality educators. Sexuality & Culture,” by Cougar Hall, Joshua H. West, and Shane Hill from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. They did a content analysis on lyrics from the top 100 songs in the Billboard Hot 100 year-end most popular songs every decade from 1959 to 2009. Through this analysis their results and conclusions lead them to say, “Popular music can teach young men to be sexually aggressive and treat women as objects while often teaching young women that their value to society is to provide sexual pleasure for others. It is essential for society that sex education providers are aware of these issues and their impact on adolescent sexual behavior.”

Unfortunately enough research hasn’t been done in the Jamaican context to prove or disprove this proposition that music can affect children’s behaviour. However, Dr. Marcia Forbes did a study with special focus on teenagers’ sexuality in relation to music videos. Data were collected via focus group sessions, in-depth interviews and a survey over the period 2004 to 2007. She published the results of her findings in her book:Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica.The findings point to “heavy consumption of music videos being associated with risky sexual behaviour, permissive attitudes re multiple sex partners.”

I spoke with Dr. Henderson, Media and Children Researcher,who concurred that sufficient studies have not been done in this area with focus on children, because researchers are apprehensive.She relayed that their apprehension exists as they believe children’s minds are not developed enough to articulate responses. She however believes as academics explore this area further there will be more funding for research. Though sufficient research hasn’t been done yet, I believed it was necessary to get a researcher’s observations about matters surrounding this topic.

Music and Behaviour

The school is an important institution of socialization which plays an important role in a child’s development and many times Educators are often the ones that identify strengths and weaknesses in children because they’re given the opportunity to witness the developmental changes in their lives. These developmental changes include perceptions about sex and gender roles. John Money, psychologist who coined the term gender role describes it as the manners in which individuals express their status as a male or female in a situation where no clear biological assignment exists. It is essentially socially defined behaviors and actions which are generally considered acceptable and appropriate based on one’s sex.

An educator’s view was essential to get, as they are able to give quite a bit of insight on behavioural patterns they observe in children.

Music and Regulation

Dr. Hopeton Dunn, Chairman for the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica

Jamaica has a few laws regarding music put these are more geared toward copyright and licensing. However, in 2009 Dr. Hopeton Dunn along with the Broadcasting Commission issued an immediate directive that specifically regulated lyrical content of Jamaican music. The directive stated:

Dr.Dunn expressed on different platforms the reasons and nature of this ban.

The Broadcasting Commission came full force with this regulation, and in an article from RJR News in 2009 the commission said “ they will be increasing its vigilance in monitoring the electronic media for such content.” The commission instituted a citizen-based media monitoring programme as a sequel to these directives. There are now volunteers across the island helping to monitor television and radio output islandwide.

This directive received mixed reactions from media practitioners and artistes, that felt as if their right to freedom of expression was being infringed upon.

The topic of the effects popular Jamaican music can have on children is a very important discussion to have.This discussion has many facets to it, more than what has been explored here. This post only aimed at putting some of the features and sides to this discussion on the table. There is an obvious information gap that can be filled with research and money should be invested in ventures such as this.Dancehall is a large part of Jamaican culture but if it indeed has averse implications as many suggest, a conversation about amendments is worth having and more regulatory decisions need to be made and successfully implemented.