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Hip-Hop Fridays: Do Rap Videos Cause Black Girls To Engage In Crime, Drug Use And Sex?

An interesting new study has been released by The American Journal of Public Health which focuses on the impact that rap music videos may be having on Black teenage females. The study sample of the report reads:

From December 1996 through April 1999, recruiters screened female teenagers residing in nonurban, lower-socioeconomic-status neighborhoods from school health classes and county health department clinics to determine their eligibility for participating in an HIV prevention program. Adolescents were eligible to participate if they were African American females, were between ages 14 and 18, had been sexually active in the previous 6 months, and provided written informed consent.

The study claims to be "one of the first studies to empirically show that greater exposure to rap music videos at baseline was prospectively associated with the occurrence of health risk behaviors and having a laboratory-confirmed new sexually transmitted disease 1 year later."

Pretty serious stuff.

The study was performed by Gina M. Wingood, ScD, MPH, Ralph J. DiClemente, PhD, Jay M. Bernhardt, PhD, MPH, Kathy Harrington, MPH, MAEd, Susan L. Davies, PhD, MEd, Alyssa Robillard, PhD and Edward W. Hook, III, MD. The scholars, doctors and researchers in discussion state:

Although not specifically referring to rap music videos... the glorification of drugs, violence, and sex in films is particularly dangerous to young African Americans who are not exposed to many positive role models in the media. This concern is equally, if not more, applicable to African American female adolescents, given their high level of exposure to rap music videos and the degrading portrayal of African American females in many rap music videos. Future research on rap music videos should be conducted among different adolescent populations. Additional research should examine whether level of attention to rap music videos and changes in mediators, moderators, and exposure differentially affect the relation between exposure to rap music videos and adolescent health. Furthermore, public health practitioners are ideally suited to educate communities, schools, and advocacy groups about the potential public health risks associated with exposure to rap music videos in African American adolescent females.

Here is a recent news article about the study:

Study Raps Rap Videos
Thu Mar 6,11:55 PM ET

By Randy Dotinga
HealthScoutNews Reporter

Rap music videos often portray a world teeming with sex and violence.

But can they make teenage girls do bad things?

While the authors of a new study say the answer to that question remains elusive, they add their research has uncovered a potential connection.

The study found that black teen girls who view more rap videos are more likely to get in trouble with the law, take drugs and become infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

"We can see there is some link, some association," says study co-author Gina Wingood, an associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education at Emory University in Atlanta. "Maybe they see what's on the rap music videos and think that's how teenagers act, and that's how I should act."

While sociologists have devoted plenty of time studying how music affects teenagers, rap videos haven't gotten much specific attention. "We said, 'Let's look at adolescent females and ask them questions about rap music and other media venues, like gospel, hip-hop and music videos in general," Wingood says.

The study findings appear in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Phone calls seeking comment about the study were not returned by spokespersons for Island Def Jam, a record company that releases rap records, or the Recording Industry Association of America (news - web sites), the main trade group for the recording industry.

Wingood and her colleagues went to health clinics in Birmingham, Ala., and studied 522 black girls from 1996 to 1999. All were sexually active and between the ages of 14 and 18.

Girls who watched the most rap videos (more than the average of 14 hours a week), were three times as likely as the other girls to have hit a teacher (7.1 percent versus 2.4 percent). They were also 2.5 times more likely to have been arrested (17.3 percent versus 7.2 percent), and nearly two times more likely to have had sex with multiple partners (19.3 percent versus 11 percent).

The researchers then followed the girls for a year. Forty-one percent of those who watched the most rap music videos developed a sexually transmitted disease, compared to 33 percent who didn't watch as many videos.

Wingood and her researchers looked at several factors that could affect behavior, such as age, income level and extracurricular activities, including church attendance. However, only two factors other than rap music viewing boosted the rates of promiscuity, drug and alcohol use, and violence among the teens. Those factors were lack of employment and lack of parents who monitor teen activities.

Wingood acknowledges she doesn't know whether the watching of rap videos directly affected the girls' behavior or merely reflected interests they already have. "Maybe they want to be independent and autonomous adolescents, and this is how they express it," she says.

Michael D. Resnick, director of the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Research Center at the University of Minnesota, says sociologists have found plenty of evidence that the media -- including music and television -- affect the health, attitudes and behaviors of teens.

"Young people are listening and observing," says Resnick, who is also a professor of pediatrics. "Adults may think they are not, but they, like adults, are social beings and we respond to the environment around us."

"When that environment is one that desensitizes us to violence and to treating each other with caring and respect, we see predictable results in young people and in ourselves."

Friday, March 7, 2003

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