Music & Identity Development

Music plays a large part in the self-discovery of every person. Music is also used to help people relate or connect with others that tend to be like them in some ways.  (Photo courtesy of Kyla Stone-Houze)Music plays a large part in the self-discovery of every person. Music is also used to help people relate or connect with others that tend to be like them in some ways. (Photo courtesy of Kyla Stone-Houze)

Does music play a part in the identity development of today’s youth? Or is music chosen based off personality?

Music tends to have a large impact on the minds and personalities of today’s youth. Some would say that teens listen to the music that best fits their identity. Others would say that the music one has grown up with, or around, is most likely what shaped the character and mindset they have.

But does it always have to be either or of the two statements? What if it’s a combination of both?

In a way, it’s almost like Nature v.s. Nurture. The whole idea of Nature v.s. Nurture is the theory of whether a person is who they are (in a behavioral sense) based on the environment they grew up in, or they behave, or act, the way they do because it runs in family genes. There are many arguments and discussions on which side truly applies to human behavior.

In music, either or both sides can apply. Some teenagers choose their music based on a more developed identity, while others choose their music based on their background and surroundings.

The kind of music a person is raised around doesn’t necessarily indicate that they like and listen only that specific genre of music. For example, a Texan teen, born into a family with the love for country music, can end up only wanting to listen to punk rock. The same goes for those who already knew their personality before really listening to music. A teenage girl who identifies herself as goth could prefer listening to pop or classical music rather than hard core metal or punk rock that a typical goth is stereotyped to enjoy.

Music also tends to influence or impact teen or adolescent social life as well. Through inferences based on musical tastes, teens assess each other and begin to learn about the personality and values of their friends. Though many may not know they are doing it, when we (as people) meet and talk to someone who is new or different we listen, acquire and try to find similarities between us (socially) so we can get a base of what they are like as a person and have a faint idea of their morals.

Music interest is somewhat used as a sort of social matching standard. Sharing the love for the same music genre can start the beginning of a strong bond. Those who have similar music interests or taste are more likely to be good friends rather than two people who have totally different music interest. Fans of different music genres can, at times, be looked at as “ingroups” and “outgroups.” A group of teens who collectively listen to pop might be known as the “ingroup,” while a mix of teens who prefer metal rock would be known as the “outgroup.” Sometimes, a person’s taste in music can be looked at as a emblem, or badge, about one’s personality or social status. Which, as a result, can cause people to form opinions or even stereotypes about fans of a certain music genre.

The process of music development and character building is like the snowball effect.The genre of music you love to listen to starts out in the initial state with very small significance, but later starts to build upon itself, becoming more serious. As a result of having a particular choice in music, teens are given their badge of what others assume they’re like and are later grouped with others that are like them (in a music sense). The effect of those groupings causes the formation of clique stereotypes ranging from the “popular kids” to the school “band geeks”, thus creating the ingroups and the outgroups.

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