Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Paper presented at the 42nd annual meeting of the New England Educational Research Organization, April, 2010, Portsmouth, NH.


Music is a significant part of our lives. People listen to music on the radio at home and in their car; they watch music videos on television or hand held technology; they buy CDs or download music; and they attend concerts. People also hear music in stores, restaurants, sporting events, and doctors’ offices (Schellenberg, Peretz, & Vieillard, 2008). Music is very important to many adolescents and they spend a considerable amount of their time listening to music. One study with N = 2,465 adolescents ages 13 and 14 found that participants listened to music for an average of 2.45 hours per day (North, Hargreaves, & O’Neill, 2000). Music has become a personal accompaniment in many teenagers’ lives because of the availability and popularity of personal music listening devices. In 2009, Jaffray released the results from the 18th semi-annual survey, “taking stock with teens.” The team of researchers surveyed approximately N = 1,200 students, with an average age of 16.3, in 12 cities across the United States and received an additional N = 10,000 online responses. The results showed that 92% of teenagers reported owning a personal music player. As a result of the popularity of these players, music has become individualized, especially for teenagers. It is also considered one of the influences in the development and identity of adolescents (North & Hargreaves, 1999). However, “What is music? To many, ‘music’ can only mean the great masters – Beethoven, Debussy, and 3 Mozart. To others, ‘music’ is Busta Rhymes, Dr. Dre, and Moby” (Levitin, 2006, p.1). Clearly, music is an important aspect in many people’s lives, especially teenagers but research on this topic is limited. In particular, there is minimal research about the effects of “popular” background music on academic tasks. Researchers have been investigating students’ homework environment and the subsequent effects on homework performance for decades (Patton, Stinard, & Routh, 1983; Pool, Koolstra, & van der Voort, 2003; Pool, van der Voort, Beentjes, & Koolstra, 2000). In 1983, Patton, Stinard, and Routh asked the question, “where do children study,” and their results influenced many future studies. The researchers surveyed N = 387 students in Grades 5-9 about his or her homework environment when reading or completing written or mathematic assignments. The study showed that most students preferred a quiet environment when reading but completed mathematic and written assignments in the presence of music or the television. Students rated the effects of different stimulations while completing academic tasks and indicated that the television was considered a moderate distracter but the students reported the music as beneficial. Patton, Stinard, and Routh’s study showed that students read in a quiet setting but then changed their environment for different homework tasks; thus showing an awareness of what they feel is their best homework environment and a level of maturity by the students in making that choice. In more recent years, many of the studies examining the effects of background music have utilized classical music (Jones & Estell, 2007; Nantais & Schellenberg, 1999; Standing, Verpaelst, & Ulmer, 2008; Thompson, Schellenberg, & Husain, 2001); however, classical music may not be popular with today’s youth. A survey conducted by North, Hargreaves, and O’Neill (2000) asked participants their preference in response to eight different types of music. Researchers concluded that the N = 2,465 participants, ages 13 or 14, had a preference for dance and pop music, enjoyed rap, soul, and rock music, but strongly disliked opera, folk, and classical music. This suggests that studies utilizing classical music may not be relevant to today’s youth. The current study examined the genres of music teenagers prefer, why they listen to music, their self-efficacy regarding homework, and if teenagers listen to music while completing mathematic, reading, and/or writing assignments. The following sections describe the need for additional research to add to the current literature of teenagers and music and explain the purpose and significance of the present study.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Adriano, J., DiPaolo, T. (2010). Teenagers’ reasons for listening to music and the students’ perception of the effects of listening when completing school assignments. Paper presented at the Northeast Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Rocky Hill, CT.



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