No link between dancehall and violence among youth - UWI study shows link statistically insignificant

Published: Sunday | December 27, 2009

Dr Donna Hope-Marquis

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

A study on violence and dancehall, led by Dr Donna Hope-Marquis, has found that there is no correlation between the two.

Funded by the Office of the Principal at the University of the West Indies (UWI), through the Special Initiatives Research Fund, the research was conducted among 300 15-24 year-olds in Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and Clarendon between June and August this year.

Hope-Marquis is a lecturer in Reggae Studies at the UWI.

For there to be a statistically significant link, there would have had to be a correlation of over 0.05 per cent between dancehall and violence. "The results were so insignificant that they could not be used as a guiding principle," Hope-Marquis told The Sunday Gleaner.

Control and case grouping were used in the study and the persons participating were asked to respond to questionnaires which established, among other factors, their social background, music consumption and perception of music. In both cases, dancehall music was the favourite music, followed by R&B.

When asked if they believed dancehall music promoted violence, 55 per cent of the control group said yes, compared to 42 per cent of the case group. However, it is a case of the music being violent but not making them feel violent personally.

Forty-two per cent of the control group said that family members were influenced by dancehall music, and 37 per cent said friends, with the remaining percentage saying themselves. For the case group, it was 20.7 per cent family, 36.7 per cent friends, and themselves the remaining percentage.

Among the influences individual respondents identified were a desire to dress and dance like the artiste, with many respondents speaking to smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. There was also the encouragement not to give up, to take up the gun, language and hairstyle, to become an artiste, having lots of sex, to get a good education, and fighting.

One respondent said that it "opened my eyes to see how others live", while another spoke about the influence "to become a gallis".

Hope-Marquis says the study is leading in a direction of not just looking at the cultural aspects of music and documenting it for posterity, "but also to try and understand from a scientific perspective how the music impacts on the society".


She pointed out that Jamaica has had a music industry for 50 years and we need a clear understanding of how it is woven into the lives of the people and what use they make of it. While Hope-Marquis has been on various panels and been involved in discussions, they have largely been about opinions.

"I am curious, after being in the eye of the storm for about 10 years," she said.

So now, someone is in a position to say definitively, "Based on the study done in 2009, there is no statistical correlation between youth consumption of dancehall music and violence."

"This study says that to me. Full stop," Hope-Marquis said.

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