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U.S. News

Sexual Lyrics Prompt Teens to Have Sex

August 8, 2006

Youths ages 12-17 who listen to music with sexually degrading and explicit lyrics are more likely to have intercourse at an earlier age than peers who listen to lyrics where sex is depicted less explicitly, a new study suggests. Researchers surveyed 1,461 teens by telephone in 2001 and conducted follow-up interviews in 2002 and 2004.

Teens who listened frequently to explicit music were almost twice as likely to initiate intercourse or other sexual activity during the two-year study as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music. Among those who listened most to sexually degrading music, 51 percent reported having intercourse within two years, compared to 29 percent of little- or no-listeners.

Exposure to sexually degrading music "gives them a specific message about sex," perhaps making such youths less thoughtful or inhibited about sexual decisions, said senior author Steven Martino of Rand Corp. Even controlling for other factors such as parents' permissiveness, explicit lyrics held a strong association with later sexual behavior, he said.

Other factors, including peer pressure, self-esteem, and home environment probably had more influence than the study indicated, said Yvonne K. Fulbright, a sex researcher and author. "It's a little dangerous to just pinpoint one thing," she said. "You have to look at everything that's going on in a young person's life. When somebody has a healthy sense of themselves, they don't take these lyrics too seriously."

However, during the teen years the brain's impulse-control center goes through "major construction" just as teens' interest in sex begins, said David Walsh, a head psychologist with the National Institute on Media and the Family. It is "not that surprising that a kid with a heavier diet of [sexually arousing lyrics] would be at greater risk for sexual behavior," he said.

Martino and Fulbright agreed that the findings suggest parents, educators, and teens need to think more critically about the messages in music lyrics.

The full study, "Exposure to Degrading Versus Nondegrading Music Lyrics and Sexual Behavior Among Youth," was published in Pediatrics (2006;118(2):e430-e441).

Back to other news for August 8, 2006

Adapted from:
Associated Press
08.07.06; Lindsey Tanner

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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