The researchers believe such youngsters tend to congregate with peers who have similar musical tastes, creating cliques that are cut off from mainstream influences and behavioral norms. “In peer groups characterized by their deviant music taste, norm-breaking youth may ‘infect’ their friends with their behaviors,” they speculate.
If they’re right, it isn’t the music per se that leads kids into delinquency (although anti-social lyrics could conceivably play a role). It’s more the fact that kids who gravitate to other nonconformists at a young age miss out on the benefits of being part of mainstream society—including the positive influences of popular peers.
So if your preteen is listening to Metallica, some early intervention may be in order. On the other hand, if he or she is into Mozart or Monk, fear not: Such kids may also be outside the mainstream, but this isolation does not manifest itself in a negative way.
In other words, if your kids are already displaying self-assuredness and independence of thought and taste by age twelve, there’s perhaps a slightly greater chance that they may end up coloring slightly outside the legal lines as they continue to mature and experiment with the boundaries of their free-spiritedness. Now, I realize that this is just one of those baked cheez-puffs of ephemeral news you can’t use, the sort of study from the Institute for Stating the Staggeringly Obvious that constitute three-quarters of the posts on sites like Pacific Standard and Big Think, but I found it particularly funny for a couple reasons. One, the earnest tone, which makes me imagine the author going up to a group of misfit teenagers to ask them if they’ve heard the good news about the benefits of fitting in with the popular kids. And two, the idea that, almost twenty-two years after the release of the eponymous Black Album, Metallica can still be considered by anyone to be outside the mainstream.