Rap music videos negatively impact health of young black girls

January 1, 2008

African-American female adolescents who watch rap music videos containing disparaging portrayals of women and/or negative sexual imagery are almost 4 times as likely to engage in binge drinking, more than 3 times as likely to test positive for marijuana use, almost twice as likely to have multiple sexual partners, and 1.5 times as likely to have a negative body image.

African American female adolescents who watch rap music videos containing disparaging portrayals of women and/or negative sexual imagery are almost 4 times as likely to engage in binge drinking more than 3 times as likely to test positive for marijuana use, almost twice as likely to have multiple sexual partners and 1.5 times as likely to have a negative body image, according to the findings of a recent study involving 522 adolescents between 14 and 18 years of age recruited from community venues.

Because such videos, as well as other forms of media, have profound implications for adverse health outcomes, the authors of the study suggest that practitioners evaluate and counsel adolescents and their families about the potential effects of such media on adolescent health and provide strategies to help parents monitor exposure.

Peterson SH, Wingood GM, DiClemente RJ, et al. Images of sexual stereotypes in rap videos and the health of African American female adolescents. J Womens Health. 2007;16:1157-1164.

This article is one of a number recently published that looks in a more scientific fashion at the impact of our immediate cultural influences on our behavior and health. Although most health care providers always knew there was a connection, many behavioral choices made by individuals were seen as individual weaknesses, with less responsibility placed on their local culture.

Another example is the recent study suggesting that if your friends are overweight or obese you are more likely to be too. Peer groups appear to re-set one's impression of what is normal or acceptable. It is hard to change behaviors (smoking, overeating, sexual acting out) if you don't see that it's a problem and it's hard to see it as a problem if your friends or people you admire do not see it as a problem.