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volume 2
july 1999

Music and identity among European youth


  Music as communication
  by Keith Roe
  In September 1996 the European Music Office published its report on "Music in Europe". The second part of this study was titled "Music, Culture and Society in Europe" and edited by Paul Rutten. It contains six critical essays and five case studies on the cultural value of music in the European Union. This critical contribution on pop music as a building block for the identity formation of youngsters and children was written for the occasion by Keith Roe.

  Photo left: Madonna at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards

Popstar Madonna caused a real controversy in the field of cultural studies. In the 1980's much was written about her stylistic combination of assertive femininity with traditional erotic symbolism. While some researchers were highly critical of Madonna, accusing her of pandering to and reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes (usually on the basis of content analyses and critiques), others reported ethnographic studies indicating that many adolescent girls were identifying more with the "assertive successful female — yet still feminine" aspect of Madonna's style.

1 Introduction. The amount of music in our "soundscape" has increased vastly in recent decades. We are not only exposed to music via the radio, tapes and CD's, it is also an essential part of traditional television programmes and cinema films, as well as being an integral part of television advertising. Cable and satellite-TV developments have stimulated the integration of the audio and the visual media to the extent that, in the music video clip, they have become indivisible. "Walkman" tape recorders make it possible to take your music with you wherever you go, and many computer games and CD-ROM's include music as a feature.
  Furthermore, music has intruded more and more into public space. In shops, supermarkets and waiting rooms, in buses, taxis and aircraft, in bars, restaurants and cafes, in lifts and telephone queues, from the passing car and "ghetto-blaster" our ears receive a barrage of usually uninvited musical sound. Today, most seven year olds have probably come into contact with more music than those living before the age of electronic media did in their whole lives.
  Moreover, since at least the 1950's it has been evident that music plays a central role in the process of identity construction of young people. This process includes not only elements of personal identity but also important aspects of national, regional, cultural, ethnic, and gender identity. The purpose of this paper is to present a brief overview of some of the research that has underpinned our growing knowledge and understanding of the role of music in the lives of young people in Europe today.
2 The research background. Music is one of the oldest forms of human communication, a human universal to be found in all cultures at all times, it is in many ways the most global aspect of the "global village". Music has many facets and many uses, but it is generally acknowledged that its primary appeal is to the emotions. As hymn, national anthem, love song, or political protest song, music may provoke feelings of religiosity, patriotism, romance or revolt. Despite this ubiquity communication researchers were rather late in devoting systematic attention to the phenomenon. There were many cultural, institutional and financial reasons for this neglect but the result was that, despite the occasional study carried out in the 1950's and 1960's, it was not until the 1970's that the study of popular music began to gain any real coherence or legitimacy as a research endeavour (classical music, of course, had long been studied by musicologists).
  A number of important milestones mark the road to the final establishment of music on the research agenda. The first was the publication in 1978 of British researcher Simon Frith's seminal study, "The Sociology of Rock", which inspired many researchers on both sides of the Atlantic to begin the social study of music in earnest. The second was the formation, in 1981, of the International Association For The Study of Popular Music. Largely thanks to the organizational energy invested in it by its first secretary, Dr. Philip Tagg (then of the University of Gothenburg), the Association quickly provided an important international and inter-disciplinary forum for music researchers. The third milestone occurred in 1985 when the American journal, Communication Research, devoted an entire number to music research, thereby signalling to music researchers that it was finally possible for their work to be published in leading international journals.
  Thanks to these and subsequent developments, there is now a large body of literature and research into popular music and to do justice to all of it would require a volume of encyclopaedic proportions. Consequently, in this short paper, no attempt will be made to cover the field in its entirety. Rather, attention will be focused on what research has had to say regarding the role which music plays in a number of important dimensions of the life experience of young people and some of the ways in which it is used to construct identity.
3 Generational identity. In the second half of the 1950's, as American rock 'n' roll began to assume its hegemony over the airways and the record buying habits of young people across the whole industrialized world, this new form of popular music began to be perceived primarily as a phenomenon of youth. In the 1960's, this perception was reinforced, on both sides of the Atlantic, by the development of a "youth movement" which self-consciously expressed itself through distinctive forms of rock and pop music. As a result of this conjunction many believed that the success of rock music was due primarily to its articulation for the young of a sense of identity based essentially on notions of age and generation. In Frith's (1978) words, the "sociology of rock" had became inseparable from the "sociology of youth".
  Given this generational perspective, it is not surprising that 1960's researchers tended to assume the existence of an apparently homogeneous "youth culture" juxtaposed to "adult culture" with which it was supposed to be in conflict. However, although few ever questioned the importance of music for youth, in the 1970's studies began to show that the popular music audience was neither as homogeneous nor as straightforward in its identification with music as had been assumed. Rather, the relationship of youth to music was found to differ significantly along on a number of dimensions, particularly those of social class, gender, and ethnicity.
  The social class based nature of popular music preferences was addressed, amongst others, by Murdock and McCron (1976a, 1976b). They noted that the 1960's "counter culture" was effectively constituted by middle class youth and a minority of educationally successful working class students. A similar analysis for the 1970's was provided by Paul Willis (1978) who showed that musical styles were woven into the very social fabric of youth subcultures and that the meanings subcultural members had for music brought about very clear homologies between the social group and its preferred music.
  At about the same time, some researchers were beginning to stress gender based differentiation in the music audience. For example, Frith and McRobbie (1978) noted how different types of music can be contextualized in terms of sex and gender. Rock music they saw as aimed primarily at a male audience as opposed to "teenybop" pop which was aimed at a largely female audience. Meanwhile McRobbie and Garber (1976) levelled a general criticism at youth culture research for failing to pay sufficient attention to females.
  The ethnic differentiation of music preferences, long obvious in North America, was not immediately apparent in Western Europe. However, as societies in Western Europe became increasingly multi-ethnic, researchers began to perceive the importance of music for the ethnic identity of European youth (see e.g. Hebdige, 1979; Cashmore, 1985; Chambers, 1985).
  Before the accumulating evidence for a differentiated audience could be unified into a coherent perspective, however, theoretical development was necessary. This came from various directions and centres of study, but in the 1970's perhaps the most important was the work being carried out on the youth subcultures at the Centre For Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. The concept of subculture, borrowed by youth researchers from the field of Criminology, became the unifying element in a new theory that sought to explain the complex ways in which certain youth groups were using music for the purpose of constructing a group identity. Directly or indirectly, subcultural theory informed a large number of studies in the 1970's and 1980's.
  In the sociological literature subcultures are seen to emerge where groups of interacting individuals, experiencing common shared problems, develop particular meaning systems, modes of expression or life styles. Normally, these groups are found in subordinate positions in society where their members are more or less directly confronted by structural contradictions arising from the wider social context. According to Brake (1980), subcultures provide particular functions for the young. First, they offer an imaginary solution to certain structural problems which are collectively experienced. Secondly, they offer a context for the selection of cultural elements such as style, values, ideologies and life-style that can be used to develop an achieved identity outside the ascribed identity offered by home, school or work. Thirdly, they provide an alternative form of social reality, not infrequently a symbolic community transmitted through the mass media. Fourthly, subcultures offer, through their expressive elements, a meaningful way of life during leisure.
  Brake saw subculture style as an expressive means of projecting an identity which appears to be "magically" freed from social position. This may be positive to the extent that it enables young people temporarily to resist the social conditions with which they are confronted, but negative to the extent that social problems are misrecognized as personal ones.
  Research soon began to show that many youthful subcultures were using some form of music to cement their group identity. Of course, music is not the only possible means to achieve this end, nor may it necessarily constitute the predominant material of the future, e.g. there is already evidence that computer based subcultures are growing in significance. Nevertheless, in the past 40 years the research shows that the core of most European youth subcultures has been provided by various forms of music. Most of these types of music originated in North America and the Caribbean, an imbalance that has given rise to research into the problems faced by the music industry in local settings (see e.g. Wallis and Malm, 1984).
  In general, subcultural theory led European researchers increasingly to identify specific subgroups of young people and to analyse the relationship between them and their favoured music. In the Nordic Countries, Germany, The Netherlands and The United Kingdom, in particular, the approach has been an influential guide and stimulus to research.
4 The structural-cultural context. The adaptation of subcultural theory also led researchers to study the structural-cultural contexts within which media uses and interpretations occur. With regard to young people, it has been argued (e.g. by Dembo, 1972; and Fornas et al., 1995) that certain dimensions, or spheres, of experience are critical to young people. In orienting themselves to these spheres young people are provided with the basic concepts of their social world and a series of gratification needs are created which structure media uses. Of these dimensions, five have been identified by researchers as being of particular importance: family, peers, achievement/success, gender and ethnicity.
a Parents versus peers. In early adolescence, social acceptance within peer groups becomes very engrossing concern. Concurrently, other social institutions, such as the family and the school, tend to be stressing the need for achievement. Acceptance, or membership and welcomed group participation, can refer to family, peers, school groups or to the wider world of social class or ethnic subcultures. Likewise, achievement can occur within any of these social arenas. Unfortunately, some of the most visible forms of socially validated achievement, such as success at school, may have little potential for generating popularity with peers — indeed the reverse has often been found to be the case.
  Peer group relations have been found to influence important aspects of adolescent life. In particular, dress, speech, forms of leisure and tastes in consumption may be particularly open to peer influence, and may lead to friction with parents. An orientation to peers tends to increase with age and may be amplified by difficulties in relations with parents. It has been found that a combination of poor familial adjustment and school failure can lead to extremely high peer group attachment.
  An early and significant move away from an orientation to parents towards an orientation to peers has been found to be associated with interest in music and music preferences, as well as identification with specific music-based subcultures. More parent oriented adolescents are less interested in music and listen less frequently to it, while more peer oriented adolescents show greater interest in music and listen to it to a greater extent. Similarly, while the more parent oriented tend to display a greater preference for mainstream pop, their peer oriented counterparts tend more to prefer "harder", more socially disvalued forms of rock.
  On the whole, the evidence suggests that problems in the family may provoke adolescents into making an even greater investment in the peer group (and the support it provides) than is normal for this life-stage. In some cases this leads to involvement in music based youth subcultures which are openly, sometimes flagrantly anti-adult. In this case, the subculture and its chosen music provide an alternative source of identity to that provided by the home context.
b The school. The subcultural model predicts that individuals sharing similar statuses will interact more with each other than would be expected by chance and that, from this, values, norms, and collective identities develop, which are to some extent unique and which can be traced to particular problems, facilities and opportunities facing those individuals. In modern society one of the greatest status dispensing institutions is the educational system and many subcultures have been found to occur during the final years of school, often when education is perceived as meaningless in terms of future prospects.
  There is growing evidence that education is a key factor not only in the generation of subcultures, but also in the development all cultural orientations. The most influential advocates of this perspective have been Pierre Bourdieu and his associates in France (see e.g. Bourdieu and Passeron 1977, 1979; Bourdieu, 1984). They argue that, like religion in former times the culture that comes from schooling provides its recipients with common thought categories; i.e. individuals endowed with a homogeneous programme of perception, thought and action, which provides dispositions for the reception and assimilation of the messages of the culture industry. Empirically, they have found that cultural practices and preferences are closely linked to educational level and, secondarily, to social origin. The educational system structures the audience for the various media to such an extent that we may anticipate a relationship between degrees and type of education and choices of media material.
  There has long been indirect evidence of a link between school achievement music use. Involvement in certain adolescent subcultures has consistently been found to be negatively related to school achievement and, as we have seen, many subcultures express a strong attachment to some form of music.
  In the past 15 years evidence of a more direct relationship between school achievement and music use has been accumulating. Studies show that school achievement and adolescents' attitude to school can have independent effects on music preferences, even when controlling for social background. Specifically, a taste for classical music, jazz and blues has been found to be associated with higher school achievement while, conversely, a taste for heavy metal rock (which may be situated at the opposite pole of cultural legitimacy from classical music) has been found to be characteristic of very discontented, low-achieving, mostly male pupils from lower-working class backgrounds. Here the best predictor variable was students' level of (dis)satisfaction with school. Overall school achievement has also been found to be related to adolescents' knowledge of all forms of music, a relationship that has been found to be stronger than that between social status background and music knowledge.
  Rock music has been found to be particularly important for those adolescents who in some way reject the culture of their class background, providing them with a marker of social distance from the parent culture and its expectations. This is because inter-generational status mobility, occurring within a larger context of status inequality, is generally accompanied by distinctive shifts in the self-esteem, identity, and lifestyle of individuals and groups that, in turn, lead to distinctive cultural taste and media use patterns.
  Different types of social mobility, upward and downward, occupational and educational, have been found to be related to preferences for music types differing in cultural legitimacy. This implies that the segmentation of the music audience can be seen, at least in part, as resulting from the trajectory of individuals and groups within various dimensions of the social status hierarchy, a process which is centrally mediated by the educational system via its certificating and status-allocating activities. For example, a strong preference for disco music has been found to be associated with upward occupational mobility, a strong preference for heavy metal to downward educational mobility, and a strong preference for classical music with upwards mobility into higher education. For those who anticipate neither relative (to their social background) success nor relative failure, and who thereby feel less acutely the need to distinguish themselves conspicuously (in whatever direction) from mainstream culture, less demonstrative cultural elements such as mainstream pop and television may offer fitting symbolic spaces. In general, the importance for adolescents of the anticipated future is a recurring theme in research and it is possible that cultural tastes are influenced as much by where one perceives oneself to be bound in the social structure as by the background from which one started (see e.g. Roe, 1992).
  A number of studies have also indicated the importance of adolescents commitment to school in relation to music tastes. It has been found that a negative commitment to school is related to a preference for "harder" forms of rock, while a positive commitment to school is associated with a taste for more socially legitimate forms. School commitment also helps to explain why some high achievers prefer music types such as heavy metal rock (i.e. they are high achievers but negative to school), and why some low achievers manifest more mainstream preference profiles. Studies have shown that many heavy metal fans are active "sensation-seekers" who express a strong dislike of school because they find the structure and regimentation of the institution difficult to take.
  How may these relationships be explained? According to one perspective, one of the main functions of schooling is that of sorting students into hierarchically ordered classes by means of socially recognized status titles of success and failure. In this way schools help to create a lasting social hierarchy, which encompasses general cultural predispositions and styles, including media habits and preferences. In some cases school failure leads students to become expressively alienated and rebellious and to transfer their loyalties to disvalued cultural elements as symbols of an alternative identity. There is now clear evidence that some aspects of adolescents' music use are facilitated, at least in part, by prevailing conditions within the school system.
c Gender. As has already been noted, subcultural research has often been criticized for its perceived pre-occupation with adolescent males. The research evidence provides some support for these criticisms: with respect to music preferences, the explanatory value of the subcultural model has consistently been found to be greater for males than for females, while virtually all studies indicate that gender plays a central role in relation to many popular music variables.
  In general, the developmental processes surrounding puberty are often used to explain the ubiquitous upsurge of interest in popular music which occurs at around this time. Since, on average, females tend to mature physically about two years earlier than males, gender differences in music use become starkly apparent during early adolescence. Among small children amount of music listening is about the same for both boys and girls. Around the age of 9-10 years, however, girls begin to increase their listening, the increase becoming more marked around 11-12 years and continuing until around 19-20 after which it falls off somewhat. By comparison, listening among boys begins to increase markedly first at around the age of 13-14, continuing up to 21-22 whereupon it also falls off. Thus, among males, the increase in listening starts later and it is not until the age of about 17 that their levels approach those of females and not until 21-22 that they surpass them. In one Swedish study (von Feilitzen and Roe, 1992), the peak level of music listening was found to be 19 for males and 18 for females.
  A similar pattern has been found with respect to active interest in music. Females tend to be more interested than males from childhood through to the age of 19-20 years, whereupon the converse begins to be true. The greater interest among females has been found to be particularly marked around the ages of 9-12 and 15-16 years of age. As with amount of listening, the increase in interest among girls begins somewhat earlier — around 9-10 years, compared to 12-13 for boys. For both sexes the increase in interest in music has been found to precede the increase in listening. The peak of interest in music occurs for males at 24 years, compared to 15 years for females.
  For Frith (1983), the starting point for any analysis of the gender differentiation of leisure is the fact that traditionally girls have tended to spend more time at home than boys do. This does not mean that they are excluded from youth culture, just less visible. In the history of pop/rock as a whole this has often resulted in the construction of the music audience in sexually differentiated terms — males as public performers, females as private consumers (ibid.). Many researchers have characterized the private discourse of "girl culture" as "bedroom culture".
  A dominant theme of popular music has always been love and courtship. Naturally, this is a theme that appeals to both sexes. However, it appears that early adolescent girls have a special relationship with pop in these terms, which explains why the majority of pop artists have been male and why young girls have dominated the "teenybopper" record buying public. Dancing is also relevant in this respect being, at least in early adolescence, a more extensive and popular activity among girls than among boys. Despite strong feminist critiques of the equation of romantic love with adolescent female sexuality, studies continue to report a link. For example, a recent American study (Steele and Brown, 1995) found that girls at all stages of sexual development and experience look for and find reinforcement for romantic myth in the media.
  Nevertheless, there have been significant changes in the relationship between music and sexuality. As Frith (1983) remarked, the Punk music of the 1970's was the first form of youth music not to rest on love songs, and one consequence of this was that new, and assertive, female voices began to be heard in rock. Since then rock music has ceased to be an almost exclusively male preserve — the previously self-evident equation of rock and assertive masculinity is now mostly to be found in specific sub-genres such as heavy metal — and the relationship of music to feminine identity has changed profoundly.
  However, while the relationship between gender identity and music has for some time been a focus of research interest, there has been disagreement about how to interpret it. This became quite apparent in the controversy between researchers over the "Madonna phenomenon". In the 1980's much was written about the American artist Madonna, in particular, about her stylistic combination of assertive femininity with traditional erotic symbolism. While some researchers were highly critical of Madonna, accusing her of pandering to and reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes (usually on the basis of content analyses and critiques), others reported ethnographic studies indicating that many adolescent girls were identifying more with the "assertive successful female — yet still feminine" aspect of Madonna's style.
  In the 1990's research on the relationship between gender and media use has been focusing less on subcultures than on the development of individual identity and life-style. In part this reflects a general shift of perspective from the collective to the individual level which has occurred in the field of youth research as a whole, a shift which has been accompanied by a greater emphasis on more qualitative methods. One consequence of this development has been to shift the focus away from visible, male dominated subcultures, to the less visible social mechanisms underlying the formation of identity for both the sexes. Many research groups across Europe have been active in this respect, but perhaps the Department of Youth Research at the University of Stockholm deserves particular mention (see e.g. Fornas et al., 1991; Ganetz and Lovgren, 1991; Bolin and Lovgren, 1995; Fornas and Bolin, 1995; Fornas, 1995).
d Ethnicity. While music such as Jazz and Blues had long been associated in Europe with black musicians, the link between popular music audiences and ethnicity, so long obvious in the United States, did not really become apparent here until the 1970's. Although Ska became a popular type of music among the 1960's Mods, and Soul was prominent in late 1960's and early 1970's disco's, this was in the main still European youth dancing to non-European music — hitherto the dominant pattern for most of the century.
  It was the success of Reggae in the 1970's that first really brought to the attention of European researchers the existence of non-European ethnically based subcultures which were using music for the purposes of identity reinforcement. According to Cashmore (1984; cf. Chambers, 1985), Reggae was heavily suffused with a rastafarian inspiration and was, in effect, a protest music drawing adherents from young blacks of the inner cities. Although Rasta's were to be found in many European cities (e.g. Amsterdam), it was in Britain that the movement established its most visible presence. Cashmore saw the development of this movement as, "unarguably the most socially important development in British post-war race relations", and, "a vital source of identity and purpose for young blacks", particularly in their struggle against racism.
  With few exceptions, the countries of Western Europe are today multi-cultural societies and, as Fornas (1992) has argued, the question of the ideological and cultural relationship of youth to different ethnicities is extremely complex and, so far, research into the specific media use of minority ethnic youth groups is at best very patchy. What is clear is that media discourses and mediated popular culture have a central role in shaping the ways in which ethnic groups view themselves and each other. However, as Fornas (ibid.) notes, while music use may help to transgress or even dissolve ethnic boundaries, in some cases it may reinforce and even help to shape them. Although far more attention is being paid to the general relationship between ethnicity and youth culture, especially within the cultural studies tradition (see e.g. Palmgren et al., 1992), there is an urgent need for more research into the specific ways in which young people of different ethnic backgrounds use music for the purposes of identity creation.
5 Summary. It has been evident for a long time that music plays a central role in the process of identity construction of young people. However, the ways in which researchers have viewed this relationship have changed radically in the past forty years.
  In the 1950's and 1960's music was generally perceived to be salient to youth in terms of a more or less homogeneous generational identity. During the 1970's, however, subcultural and feminist researchers, amongst others, showed the music audience to be more heterogeneous. As a result, in the 1980's, research came to be dominated by a perspective which stressed the importance of music in the construction of various distinct group identities. Meanwhile, as the post-war "baby boom" generation who had grown up with rock 'n' roll matured into adulthood, and as pre-puberal "teeny boppers" became an increasingly important part of the record buying public, the previously self-evident connection between rock and youth became increasingly blurred. The importance of music is no longer confined to adolescents, increasingly children (see below) and adults actively incorporate music into their identity self-definitions. In recent years research has increasingly been framed in terms of "lifestyles" and, more specifically, to the ways in which music is used in the construction of individual identity. Analyses of contemporary music subcultures such as "House", for example, tend to be framed in such individualistic lifestyle terms.
  Finally, while music is too important an activity to lose altogether its importance in the lives of young people, we are entitled to speculate as to whether, in the future, it will continue to be significant to the same extent as it has been for the past four decades; or whether this "special relationship" was a product of historically specific cultural and demographic factors which have already largely run their course? There are signs that, to some extent at least, this may be the case. The "greying" of both the artists and audience of rock must dilute its potential for youthful rebellion. Yet, new forms of popular music are continually appearing, some of which (like "House" and "Techno") seem to delight in irritating and alienating the older generation of "real rock" fans (many of whom are now parents and teachers!). As society changes, it creates the conditions for the generation of new social formations whose members will choose cultural elements as part of their self-definitions. Undoubtedly, some of them will continue to choose musical forms.
6 Children and music. Since historically adolescents were seen to dominate the popular music audience, it was long assumed that pre-pubescent children were somehow deaf to the cacophony of music surrounding them. Moreover, the expression "children and music" traditionally has implied nursery rhymes, games, songs etc. However, there is now growing evidence that pre-teenage children are becoming increasingly oriented to popular music. Studies have shown that most children listen rather frequently to the audio media and have been doing so for some time. Viewing pop/rock programmes on national and trans-national TV has also become a common activity. Furthermore, children aged between 9 and 14 are the most active of all age groups when it comes to singing and playing music themselves, even if much of this activity occurs in the school context. Dancing and attending live musical events also becomes more common as puberty approaches.
  Interest in pop and rock starts early. Studies have shown that, while children's music is popular up to the age of six, by the age of four up to 60% are also already interested in pop; and by the age of seven, 40% have pictures of music artists on the walls of their room. By about the age of nine interest has moved almost wholly to the teenage world of music and it is at about this time that children increasingly distinguish their parents' music preferences from their own. Parental disapproval of certain music styles is also clearly perceived. For most, by the age of twelve rock and pop dominate completely, distinctions of genre begin to be more finely drawn and preferences are forcibly articulated.
  The watershed in the development of music tastes — from children's music to pop and rock occurs between the ages of seven and nine. It appears that around the age of eight older siblings and friends start to exercise a greater influence over children's music preferences than do parents. However, it is important to note that, for developmental reasons, there is a significant gender difference in the development of interest in popular music and in specific preferences, with females starting earlier than males.
  Knowing that children listen to popular music in large numbers, however, does not tell us much about its importance in their lives. Unfortunately, here research is fragmentary. While extensive research has been done within the fields of the psychology and pedagogy of music, much of it has tended to assume that popular music is nothing but commercial, harmful, pacifying and worthless, destroying any desire or ability to appreciate "good" (i.e. classical) music which the child may possess. Consequently, such studies usually conclude that children need to be protected from the corrupting influence of popular music as far as is possible.
  In the West, such a view has ancient roots, and can even be traced back to Plato. In more recent times criticism has tended to centre on alleged sexual, violent, drug, racist, sexist and satanic oriented contents, especially in the genres of Anglo-American rock, heavy metal, rap, and house. Whatever the merits of this kind of perspective it tends, whether applied to teenagers or to children, to lead only to a search for negative effects, thereby leaving many important questions unaddressed, such as how do children relate to pop and rock? What is it that they find attractive in it? What are their motivations for use? What gratifications do they obtain from it? Which cognitive, emotional and social factors influence music use, and are influenced by it? What is the role of the peer group, the family, and the school in relation to music use?
  Whatever the answers to these questions, it is becoming apparent that music has become an important element in the child's creation of a private, self-domain within the household apart from the normal oversight of parents. Listening to music is a major diversion when children are alone and tends to be chosen when they are lonely or sad, or want temporarily to forget about their current situation. As such music may fulfil an important "mood control" function for children (as it does for adolescents and adults). However, one problem requiring consideration here is that children are largely "eavesdropping" into a world aimed primarily at an older audience and may fail to comprehend the lyrics being heard.
  In their review of North American research into children's use of audio media, Christenson et al. (1985: 341) concluded:
  "The available evidence is that audio — and in particular, popular music — is important to many children, and that its role is substantially different from that of television ... it is clear that if we are to gain a deep understanding of children's mediated symbolic environment and experience, audio deserves considerably more attention than it has been historically allocated by the field of mass communication research."
  In the European context, it is only possible to echo this conclusion.
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  This essay originally appeared in: Rutten, Paul (ed.), Music, culture and society in Europe. Part II of: European Music Office, Music in Europe. Brussels, 1996, 85-97.
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