Rap Music Use, Perceived Peer Behavior, and Sexual Initiation among Ethnic Minority Youth

Kimberly A. Johnson-Baker, Christine Markham, Elizabeth Baumler, Honora Swain, Susan Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose Research shows that rap music use is associated with risky sexual behavior in ethnic minority youth; however, it is unknown whether rap music use impacts sexual initiation specifically and, if so, which factors mediate this impact. Thus, we investigated the longitudinal relationship between hours spent listening to rap music in seventh grade and sexual initiation in ninth grade. We also examined the role of perceived peer sexual behavior as a potential mediator of this relationship. Methods We analyzed data from students (n = 443) enrolled in a school-based randomized controlled trial of a sexual health education curriculum collected at baseline and at 18-month follow-up. Rap music use and perceived peer sexual behavior were assessed in seventh grade, whereas sexual initiation was assessed in ninth grade. Univariate, multivariate, and mediation analyses were conducted. Results At baseline, rap music use was significantly associated with race/ethnicity, parental music rules, and sexual behavior, but not with gender or parental education. Rap music use was a significant predictor of sexual initiation on univariate analysis but not multivariate analysis. Mediation analysis showed that the association between hours spent listening to rap music and sexual initiation was significantly mediated by perceived peer sexual behavior. Conclusions Rap music use in early adolescence significantly impacts sexual initiation in late adolescence, partially mediated by perceived peer sexual behavior. More research is needed to understand how rap music influences perceptions of peer sexual behavior, which, in turn, influence early sexual initiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-322
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Media
  • Norms
  • Peers
  • Rap music
  • Sexual behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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