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Emo youth subculture bases its subcultural identification mostly on symbols of death, dying, suicide and other kinds of morbid content. The main goal of the present study was to explore attitudes toward suicidal behaviour and self-injury in emo adolescents. Semistructured in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 14 emo adherents, accompanied by an analysis of emo Web discussion forums. The results show a subculture-specific display of rules, i.e. norms of how one should express emotions. These unusual display rules enabled emo community members to express any actual emotional experience in public spaces without any inhibition. Emo participants reported that the main philosophy of the emo subculture is “to experience and express actual emotions without any restraint”. Furthermore, participants reported attitudes that included high acceptance of suicidal behaviour and self-injury. The escalation of strong emotions, for example, strong depression in the form of suicide, was perceived as something quite common in emo communities. Identification with the emo youth subculture is considered to be a factor strengthening vulnerability towards risky behaviours. Keywords: Risky Behaviors, Risky Behaviours, Problematic Behaviors, Problematic Behaviours, Suicide, Suicidal Behavior, Suicidal Behaviour, Suicidal Ideation, Self-Injury, Self-Harm, Deliberate Self-Harm, Non-Suicidal Self Injury, Nonsuicidal Self Injury, Self-Injurious Behavior, Self-Destructive Behavior, Self Mutilation, Klonsky Affect-Regulation Model, Youth Subcultures, Music-Based Subcultures, Youth, Teens, Adolescents, Adolescence, Peer Contagion, Developmental Psychology, Adolescent Psychology, Death, Dying. MeSH Headings: Suicide, Dangerous Behavior, Suicidal Ideation, Self-Injurious Behavior, Self Mutilation, Adolescent, Psychology, Developmental
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Death Studies, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 6, 337-345
Understanding death, suicide and self-injury among adherents of the
emo youth subculture: A qualitative study
Radek Trnka a,b, Martin Kuška a,b, Karel Balcar a, and Peter Tavel b
a Science and Research Department, Prague College of Psychosocial Studies, Prague, Czech Republic
b Social Health Institute - OUSHI, Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Note: This is the preprint version of the manuscript, the published article is available at
https://doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2017.1340066
Abstract
Emo youth subculture bases its subcultural identification mostly on symbols of death, dying, suicide,
and other kinds of morbid content. The main goal of the present study was to explore attitudes toward
suicidal behavior and self-injury in emo adolescents. Semistructured in-depth qualitative interviews
were conducted with 14 emo adherents, accompanied by the analysis of emo Web discussion forums.
Participants reported attitudes including high acceptance for suicidal behavior and self-injury. The
identification with the emo youth subculture is considered to be a factor strengthening vulnerability
towards risky behaviors.
Introduction
EMO youth subculture bases its subcultural identification on symbols of death, dying, suicide
and the mutilation of body parts. Adherents of this subculture are mostly in adolescence, which is a
critical period otherwise highly vulnerable for engaging in risky behaviors such as suicide (Anderson,
Lowry, & Wuensch, 2015; Miers, Abbott, & Springer, 2012; Wood, Byram, Gosling, & Stokes, 2012)
or self-injury (Anestis & Selby, 2015; Heilbron & Prinstein, 2008; Swannell, Martin, Page, Hasking, &
St John, 2014). Research on suicidal behavior in adolescence is undoubtedly very important (see e.g.,
Andriessen, Draper, Dudley, & Mitchell, 2016). There is a topical and strong need to explore not only
cultural factors relating to the suicidal behavior of adolescents (e.g., Chu, Goldblum, Floyd, & Bongar,
2010; Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Friend, & Powell, 2009), but also the influence of peers, for example,
on the level of youth subcultures. In contrast to the influences of gender (e.g. Allooh, Rummell, &
Levant, 2013; Ryalls, 2013), culture (Eskin, Schild, Öncü, Stieger, & Voracek, 2015), race (Anderson,
Lowry, & Wuensch, 2015; Mortara & Ironico, 2013) or ethnicity (Range et al., 1999; Chu, Goldblum,
Floyd, & Bongar, 2010), less attention has thus far been paid to the role of subcultural identification in
adolescent attitudes toward suicidal behavior.
Given that adolescence is a period during which peers are especially influential (e.g., Dishion
& Tipsord, 2011; Spear, 2000), adhering to some youth subcultures may be related to a specific kind of
peer influence. Young et al. (2006) found an influence of identification with several youth subcultures
on the risk of suicide attempts and self-injury. Further, the study of Bowes et al. (2015) showed that
young people identifying with Goth subculture might be at increased risk for depression and self-harm.
Stack, Lester, and Rosenberg (2012) even refer to some music-based subcultures as suicidogenic. Goth
subculture shares some aspects with EMO subculture, such as a morbid visual aesthetic, and one may
seriously ask about the possible relationship between youth subcultural identification and attitudes
towards self-harming or suicide.
Figure 1. Adherents of the EMO youth subculture. (Photo: Radek Trnka)
Given the above-mentioned findings, a detailed, in-depth investigation of the influence of
adhering to EMO youth subculture on suicidal behavior in adolescents is desirable. When seeking a link
between the social influence of peers and problematic adolescent behavior, the theory of peer contagion
(Dishion & Tipsord, 2011) offers a suitable theoretical basis. Generally, the concept of peer contagion
describes "a mutual influence process that occurs between an individual and a peer and includes
behaviors and emotions that potentially undermine one’s own development or cause harm to others"
(Dishion & Tipsord, 2011, p. 190). The mechanism of peer contagion is not sufficiently clear, but Bowes
et al. (2015) suggest that interpersonal processes and peer contagion may be related to an increased risk
for self-harm in adherents of Goth youth subculture. Also, the interpersonal theory of suicide emphasizes
that the suicidal ideation is interpersonal in nature (Lockman & Servaty-Seib, 2016).
As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, EMO subcultural identification is based on the
interiorization of symbols of death, dying or suicide, and these symbols as well as other kinds of morbid
aesthetic are shared in adherents of EMO youth subculture. There is evidence that public opinion
generally links the EMO youth subculture with self-harming and suicidal behavior (Strauss, 2012). EMO
adolescents are generally perceived as being emotionally oversensitive, easily hurt, often frustrated,
depressed and also highly vulnerable to committing suicide (Definis-Gojanovic, Gugic, & Sutlovic,
2009). Although this public opinion may be biased in part due to EMO’s morbid aesthetics, self-
destructive behavior and suicidal tendencies definitely do occur in EMO communities (Johnson &
Cloonan, 2009).
The EMO subculture is a highly individualized one, but it is possible to distinguish several
features shared by its adherents. The most striking feature of the EMO subculture is the visual
appearance of EMO adolescents (Bailey, 2006; Kuška, Formankova, & Kolarova, 2010), which also
serves as an identifying marker of their interiorized EMO lifestyle (see Figure 1). Their clothing is
usually tuned to dark colors, often with brightly colored accessories in girls, while boys’ clothing evokes
an overall impression of shabbiness (Kuška, Formankova, & Kolarova, 2010). They wear canvas
sneakers and put dark make up around the eyes. The hairstyle is especially distinctive, often dyed to
dark shades with a quiff covering one or both eyes. The lyrics of EMO music groups as well as EMO
comic books are saturated with death, suicides, blood, images of pain, sorrow, suffering as well as with
bodily mutilations (Baker & Bor, 2008; de Boise, 2014). There are images such as cut wrists, hollowed-
out eyes, a heart extracted from the chest, penetration of the skull, and so on. It is reasonable to ask
about what kind of attitudes toward suicide and self-injury may be found in adolescent adherents of
EMO subculture.
Adherents of EMO communities represent an example of a hard-to-reach population. EMO
adherents are closed or even inaccessible to people outside of the EMO subculture. For this reason,
EMO is a quite rarely studied subculture, and quantitative research of suicidal behavior and ideation in
EMO adolescents is lacking. Several papers that have been published on EMO subculture were based
on virtual analysis from Internet resources, without personal contact of researchers with EMO
adolescents (e.g., Chernoff & Widdicombe, 2015; Seganti & Smahel, 2011; Zdanow & Wright, 2012).
Other recent research on EMO subculture has been conducted in more general field of popular culture
(e.g., Red, 2014), lifestyle (Rohde, 2016; Mortara & Ironico, 2013) or specific aspects, like crisis of
masculinity (de Boise, 2014; Ryalls, 2013) or gender in general (Allooh, Rummell, & Levant, 2013;
Rohde, 2016). The purpose of the present study is to explore attitudes toward suicide and self-injury in
adolescent adherents of the EMO youth subculture. We focus on the ways EMO adolescents understand
and interpret suicidal and self-injuring behavior and analyze the meanings that self-injury and suicidal
behavior have for adolescent adherents of EMO subculture.
Methods
Participants and Procedure
All participants were caucasian Czechs living in the Czech Republic. They participated
voluntarily without any financial reimbursement. The adherents of the EMO subculture were contacted
personally at public events, like the concerts of EMO music groups, EMO events in music clubs and
outdoor EMO meetings. Adolescent adherents of the EMO subculture behaved very distantly. They
appeared self-contained, shy, inaccessible and leery of the researchers. We contacted 186 EMO
adherents in total, but 149 of them strictly refused the invitation for an interview immediately, and
communication with those who did agree to the interview was very delicate. Twenty-three interviews
were later canceled, and many contacts with participants were not successful in the starting stage of the
research. The semi-structured qualitative interviews were mostly conducted in music clubs before their
program started, or in bars, fast food restaurants and cafés following the initial contact and negotiation
with the potential EMO participants. Several interviews were conducted at EMO outdoor meetings in a
park in the center of Prague. All interviews were recorded on a Dictaphone, and all participants agreed
with the recording of their interviews and provided signed informed consent with participation in the
study. Signed parental informed consent was obtained in cases of participants younger than 18 years.
The average duration of a recorded interview was 59 minutes, and a total of 14 semi-structured in-depth
interviews were included in the final sample (6 EMO boys; 8 EMO girls; aged 15 to 19).
The research design was approved by the institutional ethics committee. We always respected
the adolescents’ refusal to participate or continue in their participation (CIOMS, 2002). We assured
participants about protecting the confidentiality of the research data. The true names of the participants
were changed when presenting their testimonies in the following text. Although a recent review of
Dazzi, Gribble, Wessely, and Fear (2014) suggests that talking about suicide in fact reduces, rather than
increases, suicidal ideation, we were aware that we were investigating potentially vulnerable
participants, and thus contacting as well as interviewing them was done very sensitively.
Measures The structure of the in-depth interviews included seven broader areas: family atmosphere,
personal values and identity, attitudes toward suicide and self-harming, circumstances of joining EMO,
EMO commercial products, identification features of the EMO community, and future life plans. The
presentation of the whole data set far exceeds the focus and extent of the present study; therefore,
attention will be primarily paid to attitudes towards suicide and self-injury and the ways the participants
make sense of phenomena like suicide and self-injury. Data concerning these issues will be presented
in this study.
The battery of questions in the second half of the interview reflected the participants’ attitudes
and understanding of suicide and self-injury and included questions on personal experiences with suicide
or self-injury (both their own and their EMO friends) and personal opinions on what self-injury and
suicide mean to them. We also asked additional questions based on the actual course of the particular
interview. We remained open to new issues and dimensions that emerged during the interview.
Transcriptions of all interviews were made at the end of the interviewing stage of the project.
The qualitative research was accompanied by supplementary content analysis of Web
discussion forums in the Czech language. The utilization of strategies based on samples drawn from
Web pages dedicated to the music subculture is also recommended by Stack, Lester, and Rosenberg
(2012). We found and analyzed eight online discussions from two public EMO portals and contents and
discussions from nine EMO blogs.
Analytical Strategy
The interviews were analyzed using the inductive content analysis that has been proved to be
a suitable analysis strategy in qualitative descriptive studies (Rissanen, Kylma, & Laukkanen, 2009;
Sandelowski, 2000; Sullivan-Bolyai, Knafl, Tamborlane, & Grey, 2004). The analytical strategy was
further inspired by the method of interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin,
2009) in the sense that we focused on understanding the experiential world of the participants. More
specifically, we focused on insights into how the participants make sense of phenomena like suicide and
self-injury.
The transcripts of the interviews were subjected to multiple close readings. All the statements
in which a participant told something about self-injury or suicide were coded independently by two
researchers (M.K., R.T.) and validated by another researcher (K.B.). The process of validation was based
on the comparison of codes from two independent coders (M.K., R.T.) by a third researcher (K.B.), who
also recommended various improvements for coding. The codes were grouped into categories based on
their similarities and differences, and the categories were named according to their content. All four
authors agreed on the selection of representative quotations. The contents from the supplementary
analysis of Web discussion forums were analyzed in a similar way.
Results
Suicide as a Natural Outcome of Strong Emotions
EMO participants expressed high acceptance of suicide, suicidal behavior and deliberate self-
injury. Suicide was not perceived as something strange or pathological, but rather as a way that “serious
problems” can be solved. Testimonies often included notions about “serious problems”, “escape from
reality”, “great passions” or “big emotions”. Emotions occupy a central position in the general
philosophy of the EMO subculture, as reported by our EMO participants. The main philosophy of the
EMO subculture is “to experience and express your actual emotions without any restraint”. During the
contact stage of the research, we often observed at public events that EMO adolescents overtly expressed
intensive emotions like crying or angry screaming, i.e. those emotions whose overt expression is
otherwise mostly restricted by cultural display rules in public spaces. Thus, the escalation of, for
example, strong depression in the form of suicide is perceived as something quite common in EMO
communities. EMO participants in the present study also reported stories about the successful suicides
of their past EMO friends as well as about their own suicide attempts. One participant, Viktor, had
already attempted suicide three times unsuccessfully:
Researcher: Have you ever considered the idea that you would try to harm yourself?
Viktor: No, I loathe the fact that I have veins and arteries and blood, etc. … I cannot stand seeing blood
… even if I cut my finger; it's crazy, isn't it? And mainly, why should I have any scars? Should I have a
big problem, I'd just do it … and it would be really freaky … and it would be really mad, that it would
simply be the end, I would just kill myself, but cut myself? Why?
Researcher: What would have to happen for you to make you to cut yourself?
Viktor: What would happen? Well, I'd cut myself, because I want to die. And it would become necessary,
for example, I don't know, if I had a girlfriend for five years and she died. In this case I would think
about it, because I would be sad, but I think … maybe it's not necessary to kill myself because of
something like this. I think … I would do it … I don't know … only if I just would be threatened by an
awful danger and nothing could be done about it … Just when "they" would come for me in my house
and someone would want to burn or beat or kill me, I don't know, murder, mafia, in such a case, I would
do it, but otherwise I find it unnecessary to erase myself from the world.
Viktor belonged to a group of EMO adherents with a high occurrence of completed suicides.
It is likely that his own attitudes towards suicidal behavior may also be related to the influence of suicidal
behavior of his previous EMO friends. To the question “Do you have any EMO friends?” he answered:
Viktor: Not any more. I just look for new friends everywhere I do not know I just want such a
friend … I have always needed such friend, and I had … but all of the people died. And those who were
here at the top … on the peak, the style … simply awful people … everyone knew them and talked about
them. When their nickname was said, everyone knew who it was. But … they just stopped … None of my
friends remain; everyone said that I am the last, and this is true no one is like that among the people
I know.
Suicide as a Common Solution to Life Problems
Suicide is perceived as a one of the acceptable solutions to serious life problems by EMO
adolescents. Some testimonies include expressions of indifference to the possibilities of living or to
dying:
Alex: Suicide is a certain solution. I agree, too. Until I was 13, I lived with an alcoholic father. He could
just get drunk and came home, wake me, beat me, wake my sister, forced us to go into the living room
and watch as he beat my mother ... I do not have enough strength to kill myself, but I don´t care if I die.
I don’t mind. If I die, so it was just meant to be. It didn´t bother me to such an extent that once I doused
myself with gasoline and set on fire. I did it just because I was bored, so I took the camera, doused
myself and shot it. I don´t really care if I die.
Alex presented his story on an EMO Web discussion forum. The reactions of several other EMO
adherents illustrate that they understand suicide as one of commonly perceived possibilities when
encountering difficult life situations:
Evelina: Everyone has it different, some manage better, some worse, and when it's all too much, I do
not see any other way than to leave ... and it may not be that they would not want to suffer anymore, but
it may be that they think that without them other people will feel better.
Bernard: Simply to kill oneself. Two seconds are enough and the suffering may end and you can finally
breathe normally and can feel like a full human being. It is not a bad prospect
Radim: From my perspective, suicide is a last rescue. I'm not saying that I‘ve thought about it, but I
know about it, and I live as fully as I can, because I know that when the time comes, I can do it with a
clear conscience and not regret anything. At best it should stop, right?
Patricie: As it has already been mentioned hereI feel and experience so much that it hurts. I'm not
strong enough to do it (suicide) alone. But I strongly wish to be at the end. Let it happen...
The reactions of other EMO adherents to online suicidal self-disclosure as well as public
suicidal self-disclosure may itself be related to interpersonal sharing of attitudes and possibly also to
online peer contagion. Aside from this, the interviewed participants often reported other instances of
interpersonal influences, for example:
Researcher: Have you ever met someone of EMO people who cut himself/herself?
Anastazie: Of course! I met a girl who did not look like an EMO girl, indeed, but she presented herself
as EMO. And ... she cut her legs...here, above the knee...and she wore miniskirts so others could see...and
she boasted about it.
Strange Excitement after Self-Injury
Various experiences with self-injuring behavior were reported by the participants.
Testimonies about deliberate self-injury and the experience of pain included several interesting aspects.
Although deep skin damage may elicit pain in the self-injuring person, such feelings were not often
reported, at least not when describing the moment of committing self-injury. On the contrary, positive
feelings like relief were reported:
Researcher: How would you describe the feeling before, during and after cutting?
Adam: During: a strange excitement ... and after: Damn, my foot hurts!
Researcher: Another characteristic?
Adam: It is such satisfaction, but so terribly special ... It is a relief, but at the same time, one knows it
just does not make sense. That it is useless. But at the same time one feels relieved. One knows that it
will not solve anything, but I still do it again.
Adam learned when he was thirteen that his parents are adoptive. Then, in his own words, “his
life was changed forever”. He described this event as a very traumatic experience. He then started to
respond aggressively to his father and became an adherent of the EMO subculture. Adam and his
girlfriend Liliana (also an adherent of the EMO subculture) both reported experimenting with practices
of black magic, telepathy and astral travelling. Both have already committed self-injury, and Adam also
thinks about committing suicide in the future. For him, astral travelling is considered to be a preparation
for real death. Similar feelings accompanying self-injury were described by Boris:
Researcher: So you're ... Do you sometimes have the feeling that you have to cut yourself?
Boris: No feelings to cut, but when I'm really very upset and I do not have cigarettes in hand, and I'm
lazy to buy them ... so ... I need to cut myself a few times, on the surface only ... because I need to feel
relief.
Researcher: How many times do you have to cut yourself like this per month?
Boris: Now, not so many times. I have got antidepressants prescribed by my doctor again.
Participant Kristian reported decreased awareness of the pain, or partial analgesia in the course
of his intentional self-injury:
Researcher: How would you describe the feeling before, during and after cutting?
Kristian: When you are angry a lot, or nervous, or are strongly depressed, then I cannot feel the pain,
at least until I am O.K. again. Then my hand starts to hurt. But otherwise, it is ... I do it basically also
with a “scientific” intent, because when you are bleeding, the endorphins should get released and you
feel a little bit happier. So when I am strongly depressed and do not have any antidepressant pills at
hand ... sometimes I cut myself ...a little bit.
Kristian did not feel pain when he cut his forearm. The changed affective state, as predicted by
the affect-regulation model (Klonsky, 2007), often appeared in the testimonies of participants involving
the subjective experience of intentional self-injury. Participants reported depression, distress, feeling
upset, anger, or nervousness before they commit an act of self-injury.
Self-Injuries as a Mark of Affiliation to EMO Subculture
The analysis of Web discussion forums and the researchers’ experiences from the contact
stage of the research revealed that EMO adherents overtly present their self-injuries during face-to-face
encounters as well as online. During the contact stage of the project, we saw many EMO adolescents
with already healed self-injuries at public events, like concerts of EMO music groups, EMO events in
music clubs and outdoor EMO meetings. The scars were mostly on their forearms, and they wore
clothing that left the scars clearly visible. For example, they selected appropriate sleeve-lengths so as
not to conceal the scars. For many of them the overt demonstration of self-injury in the community of
EMO adherents is a mark of affiliation to EMO subculture. They aim to affirm that they are real insiders,
that they are “true EMOs”.
The analysis of Web discussion forums revealed that many EMO adherents are motivated
even to show photos of their self-injuries on the Internet. Most self-injuries were of skin damage caused
by cutting with knives, needles or razor-blades. Some of the photos published on the Web were taken
with almost professional lighting, composition, etc., and present the self-injuries in an artistic manner.
This indicates that at least some EMO adherents even perceive their self-injury as a form of art. The
artistic presentation of self-injuries is a part of the morbid aesthetics considered to be one of the typical
features of EMO subculture.
The contents of online discussion forums provided us with further opinions of EMO adherents
regarding their self-injury. Many of reactions on the Internet justified the individual choice of engaging
in deliberate self-injury:
Gabriel: If you have never cut yourself and gotten to the other side of the barricade, I dare
say with all regards, you do not know what you're talking about ... I have totally sawed my whole left
hand, for example. Yes, it is quite visible. And not hide it forever! I'm not talking about it with anybody,
apart from the psychologist I visit... someone is depressed and cuts himself he has real problems.
Benedikt: I hate people who hassle us about the fact that we cut. So what? It's our thing and
cutting is the only escape from this fucking reality…
Diana: Hey, I write it like this. I cut myself for a long time; it calms me and overrides the
emotional pain by this physical pain and it doesn't hurt so much… !! In all, there are a million reasons
not to do it, but there are still infinite reasons why we are doing it!!!
Antonie: Hi, hey EMO is a style... These people must be different... if we are not something
different, then everyone could be EMO and it would not be something exceptional, as it is now... EMO
is about cutting and it also is not… It is not a rule to cut yourself…I will not cut when I am O.K... but
EMOs are people with great passion and emotions… they feel and experience everything much more
strongly than other people… therefore, they cut themselves… they are exceptional in this, …for this
reason people connect us with cutting and so we are exceptional ... so if you want to cut, let’s cut…but
be careful, I once did it and then I’d like to do it again and again... when my blood is flowing from my
veins…I love it…but I hate it at the same time.
Discussion
The results of the present study contribute to current knowledge about attitudes of adolescents
toward suicide and deliberate self-injury, reflecting the identification of youth with a subculture based
on morbid aesthetics. First, the EMO adolescents in our study showed high tolerance for suicide, suicidal
behavior and deliberate self-harm (see also Segal, Connella, Miller, & Coolidge, 2016). Suicide is
understood to be something relatively common, or an acceptable solution to a difficult life situation. It
is possible to consider that the attitudes towards suicide and deliberate self-injury in adolescent adherents
of the EMO subculture are shaped by the opinions and attitudes of other EMO peers with whom they
are, or previously were, in contact. Thus, their understanding of self-injury and suicide may be shaped
by belonging to a community of other EMO adherents as well as by an online perception of values and
symbols related to the EMO subculture. The participants reported high acceptance for suicidal behavior
and deliberate self-injury. Such attitudes toward suicidal behavior and self-injury may be influenced by
mutual communication among EMO community members as well as by online sharing, i.e. using blogs,
social networks and online discussions. These findings provide new impetus for the theory of peer
contagion (Dishion & Tipsord, 2011) and also support previous findings in Goth subculture (Bowes et
al., 2015). Also, other scholars considered social contagion to be a risk factor for engagement in self-
injury (Jarvi, Jackson, Swenson, & Crawford, 2013). Social contagion was suggested to influence the
transmission of self-injury and increase the risk of initial engagement in deliberate self-injury among
individuals (Jarvi, Jackson, Swenson, & Crawford, 2013). The peer-contagion effect may be present in
the transfer of risky attitudes towards both suicidal behavior and deliberate self-injury between EMO
adherents. Therefore, we consider the identification with EMO youth subculture to be a factor
strengthening vulnerability towards risky behaviors, especially suicidal behavior and deliberate self-
injury. Second, the researchers’ experiences with EMO adherents and the analysis of Web discussion
forums revealed that EMO adherents are intensely exposed to morbid images and contents, including
death, suicides, blood, suffering, self-injury and other injuries, self-mutilation, etc. Such themes also
occur in the lyrics of musical interpreters favored by EMO adherents. EMO adherents meet with these
themes expressed visually in the form of symbols both online and during face-to-face encounters with
their EMO friends. These morbid symbols are involved in commercially designed EMO clothes, T-
shirts, sweatshirts, trousers, etc. and also in the graphical designs of EMO Web forums and blogs.
Morbid images are shared both online and via face-to-face interactions. Indeed, the frequent perception
of morbid symbols may represent an important influence for mental development of adolescents. Baker
and Lewis (2013) reported that exposure to graphic stimuli, including self-injury, reinforced and
encouraged self-harming. Analogically, if we think about heightened exposure to images, including
suicidal behavior, a similar effect on adolescents’ own suicidal behavior and suicidal ideation may be
hypothesized. The study of McMahon, Corcoran, Keeley, Perry, and Arensman (2013) brought evidence
that adolescents exposed to suicidal behavior in the past were eight-times more likely to report self-harm
than adolescents not exposed to suicidal behavior. Further, a meta-analysis on risk-glorifying media
exposure determined that exposure to risk-glorifying music tended to be associated with risky behaviors,
cognitions and emotions (Fischer et al., 2011). Taking into account the effect of peer contagion (Dishion
& Tipsord, 2011), the intense exposure of EMO adherents to morbid symbols and images can also be
considered a risk factor for initial engagement in suicidal behavior.
Third, the present study contributes to current knowledge about self-injury in adolescents. Our
results support Klonsky’s (2007) affect-regulation model in part using a non-clinical, community sample
of adolescents. The affect-regulation model posits the idea that self-injury is preceded by negative
emotions. Participants in the present study reported that the execution of self-injury often takes place
following an experience of depression, distress, being upset or nervousness. These results, based on
testimonies emerging from structured interviews, are in line with the empirical study of Klonsky (2009).
Undergraduates reported similar affect-states as frustrated, anxious, sad and overwhelmed or hurt
emotionally.
We consider the identification with EMO youth subculture to be a risk factor strengthening
vulnerability towards problematic behavior, such as suicidal behavior or deliberate self-injury.
However, it is not clear how strong the influence of EMO peers on attitudes of newcomers joining the
EMO subculture is. What is contentious is the influence of personality and previous attitudes of
adolescents that are attracted to join the EMO youth subculture. Bowes et al. (2015) posited that a degree
of self-selection is present, where thinking about young people who are attracted to join the Goth
subculture. We may consider the possibility that some adolescents attracted by a subculture based on
morbid aesthetics may be more personally susceptible to depression, self-harming or suicidal behavior.
Such personal predispositions may influence the probability that an adolescent will decide to become
an adherent of some youth subculture that is in accordance with his/her personality. Taking personal
predispositions and vulnerability factors for risky behavior into consideration may be very fruitful for
future research on the peer contagion effect (Dishion & Tipsord, 2011) relating to death and suicide.
A limitation of the present study is that qualitative data have a limited potential for making
any broader generalizations. Therefore, our conclusions represent rather new hypotheses and new
questions that may be inspiring for future research. A further limitation is that the transcriptions of all
interviews were made at the end of the interviewing stage, which is not conventional in qualitative
research. Future research should consider the influence of EMO music on mental distress and
depressivity of EMO adherents (see, e.g. Peterson, Safer, & Jobes, 2008; Rustad, Snall, Jobes, Safer, &
Peterson, 2003). We hypothesize that listening to the lyrics of EMO music may potentially elicit feelings
of alienation, pessimism or hopelessness, and hopelessness was previously considered to be a key risk
factor for suicide (e.g. Stack, 1998; Stack et al., 1994). Further, the role of autobiographical self-
disclosure on suicidal ideation (Kovac & Range, 2002) could also be taken into account when analyzing
the effects of blogging and online self-disclosure of adherents of some suicidogenic subcultures.
Funding This research has been financed by the EEA and Norway Grants and institutionally supported
by the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports under Reg. No. 7F09122.
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... The acceptance of suicide as an appropriate response to negative life events may also become normalised as a shared belief between members of social groups or certain subcultures [12,13]. In this way, attitudes and understanding become shaped by the experiences and beliefs of others [12]. ...
... The acceptance of suicide as an appropriate response to negative life events may also become normalised as a shared belief between members of social groups or certain subcultures [12,13]. In this way, attitudes and understanding become shaped by the experiences and beliefs of others [12]. It is also important to consider, however, that those with pre-existing vulnerabilities may be drawn to likeminded people or subcultures (eg. ...
... It is also important to consider, however, that those with pre-existing vulnerabilities may be drawn to likeminded people or subcultures (eg. Goth or EMO) from the outset, which will bias the sample and overemphasise the social influences on suicidality [12,13]. ...
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Background Suicide remains a global issue with over 800,000 people dying from suicide every year. Youth suicide is especially serious due to the years of life lost when a young person takes their own life. Social interactions, perceived support, genetic predisposition and mental illnesses are factors associated with suicide ideation. Objectives To review and synthesize qualitative studies that explored the experiences and perceptions of suicide in people 25 years old and younger. Design Qualitative systematic review. Data sources PubMed, PsycINFO, Scopus and CINAHL were searched alongside hand-searching reference lists up to October 2018. Methods Methodological quality was assessed using the qualitative Critical Appraisal Skills Programme checklist. The 27 studies included in the review centered around youth suicide and included interviews with young people and members of the wider community. Thematic synthesis focused on factors leading to suicide attempts, elements important to recovery, beliefs within the community, and treatment/prevention strategies. Results Thematic analysis of the articles revealed four categories: i) triggers and risks leading to suicidality; ii) factors involved in recovery; iii) need for institutional treatment/prevention strategies; and iv) beliefs about suicide at a community level. The first category was further subdivided into: i) behaviours; ii) feelings/emotions; iii) family influences; iv) peer influences; and v) other. The second category was split into: i) interpersonal; ii) cultural; and iii) individual influences, while the third category was divided into i) education; and ii) treatment. Conclusion Youth suicide is a complex issue with many causes and risks factors which interact with one another. For successful treatment and prevention, procedural reform is needed, along with a shift in societal attitudes toward emotional expression and suicide.
... All these studies included strong sets of confounders that did not render goth's effects insignificant. In a small scale, qualitative study, a relationship was reported between belonging to the emo rock subculture and high tolerance towards self-harm, suicide ideation and suicidal behaviors (Trnka et al., 2018). These results prompted all these researchers to conclude that members of the goth and emo rock scene are vulnerable young people. ...
... Our results provide evidence that adolescents in the non-mainstream groups of all-out rock fans and rock/metal fans indeed show more problems compared to their peers, particularly when compared to the pop fans group. Our results corroborate the conclusions of earlier qualitative and cross-sectional studies that loud, rebellious music indicates adolescent problem behaviors (Arnett, 1996;Lozon & Besimon, 2014;Trnka et al., 2018;Weinstein, 1991). However, the approach in the current study further nuances the relationship between music and problem behaviors. ...
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Adolescent preferences for non-mainstream types of rock music can be markers of adolescent problem behaviors, but no study has ever investigated whether this relationship continues into adulthood. In a six-wave study, 900 Dutch adolescents were followed from ages 12 to 21 (Mage T1 12.4, 51.1% girls), while reporting on depressive symptoms, mental well-being, aggression and drug use. A latent class growth analysis on their preferences for specific types of rock music revealed four fan groups. When these fan groups were compared to one another, in adolescence, the all-out rock fans displayed the highest peak in depressive symptoms and the lowest dip in well-being and the rock/metal fans reported the most aggression. And for both these groups, drug use increased at the onset of adulthood. Pop fans displayed a profile characterized by low depressive symptoms and aggression, and high in mental well-being. Finally, the popular rock fans held an in-between position between pop fans, on one side, and the all-out rock fans and rock/metal fans, on the other side. Thus, music preferences can be markers of problems, not only in adolescence but also in young adulthood. Still, music can enhance mood, helps to cope with problems, and peers in fan groups can provide support. This research focuses on the relationship between music and problem behaviors, specifically among members of the all-out rock fans and rock/metal fans, but many of these young people might have had more personal problems if they had not had their music and their fan-group peers.
... 154). In their study of emo, Trnka et al. (2018) observed that 'the main philosophy of emo subculture is "to experience and express your actual emotions without any restraint," and that at public events emos outwardly expressed such emotional unguardedness through crying and angry screaming ' (p. 340). ...
... With their hearts on their sleeves, emo vocalists perform the hegemony of masculinity through screaming, however effeminate it might seem to outsiders. noteS 1. Emo has also been linked to broader issues about suicide and self-harming behaviour (Trnka et al. 2018). Media tend to frame such issues around a moral panic, and this discourse often focuses on young women. ...
Chapter
Focusing first on the discourse surrounding emo, Mack argues that ‘emo’ was not used solely to identify an emotive variant of hardcore punk but to also mark a subordinate expression of masculinity rooted in feminine stereotypes. The chapter then turns to the act of screaming. By way of two brief examples, Mack posits that screaming in emo is affected by the emotional intensity of the lyrics and that when screams are pushed to the point of breakage they express the loss of emotional control. The chapter concludes by demonstrating that the affected scream in emo violates the truism that men must practise emotional restraint while simultaneously functioning as a sonic expression of male dominance from its own subordinate position.
... Daily Mail, as one of mainstream media, stated that parents should increase their awareness if emo subculture and music would influence their children to imitate self-harm behavior or having suicide intention [20]. Because emo kids spent large amount of time on social network to connect with their subculture, they may absorb the idea that suicide thought and self-injury were normal [21], [22]. Nevertheless, problem music was not found as the cause of self-mutilation, but low self-esteem, instead, could directly bring about self-mutilation [23]. ...
... Because emo subculture may make teenagers' acceptation and disclosure regarding suicide, self-harm, and vulnerability [21], emo kids are allowed to openly communicate about these thoughts without being blamed by other members in the same subculture. In some case that the first author of the current study had seen, emo kids who showed their wrist cutting on their Facebook profiles were comforted by other emo friends. ...
... After the suicide of two Australian female students, Jodie Gater and Stephanie Gestier, in 2017, emo kids were not viewed only as subculture members or fans of modern punk music, but folk devils [13], [14]. They used social network and allowed emo texts to alter their thoughts to associate with self-injury and suicidal idea [8], [15]. This contradiction against social norm is the cause that public marked them as deviants rather than a subculture [16], [17]. ...
... When it does it was predominantly focused on the issue of depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies (Baker and Bor 2008;Definis-Gojanović et al. 2009;Munteanu et al. 2011;Stack et al. 2012;Zdanow and Wright 2012;Baker et al. 2013;Trnka et al. 2018) or on gender issues, sexuality and crisis of masculinity (Williams S. F. 2007;Peters 2010;Hill 2011;López 2012;Allooh et al. 2013;Ryalls 2013;de Boise 2014;Rohde 2016). ...
Chapter
This chapter examines the recent popularity of emo subculture in Prague and other cities in the Czech Republic, focusing on the role of online and offline spaces in this latest emo resurgence and the interrelation of these spaces (public and private), as manifested and constructed by subcultural practices. Based on ethnographic research of contemporary Czech emo subculture both online and offline, the conclusion is reached that even if emo is a prime example of a contemporary new-mediated subculture unable to exist without online modes of communication, emo still puts great emphasis on communication offline, giving it at least as much importance as online interaction. It is further argued that even if online and offline are distinguishable analytically, they are quite inseparable in Czech emo practice.
... Принадлежность к альтернативным молодежным субкультурам увеличивает вероят-ность появления рискованного поведения подростков, в частности способствует принятию суицидального и самоповреждающего поведения других и своего собственного (Trnka, 2018). ...
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Written against the academically dominant but simplistic romanticization of popular music as a positive force, this book focuses on the 'dark side' of the subject. It is a pioneering examination of the ways in which popular music has been deployed in association with violence, ranging from what appears to be an incidental relationship, to one in which music is explicitly applied as an instrument of violence. A preliminary overview of the physiological and cognitive foundations of sounding/hearing which are distinctive within the sensorium, discloses in particular their potential for organic and psychic violence. The study then elaborates working definitions of key terms (including the vexed idea of the 'popular') for the purposes of this investigation, and provides a historical survey of examples of the nexus between music and violence, from (pre)Biblical times to the late nineteenth century. The second half of the book concentrates on the modern era, marked in this case by the emergence of technologies by which music can be electronically augmented, generated, and disseminated, beginning with the advent of sound recording from the 1870s, and proceeding to audio-internet and other contemporary audio-technologies. Johnson and Cloonan argue that these technologies have transformed the potential of music to mediate cultural confrontations from the local to the global, particularly through violence. The authors present a taxonomy of case histories in the connection between popular music and violence, through increasingly intense forms of that relationship, culminating in the topical examples of music and torture, including those in Bosnia, Darfur, and by US forces in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay. This, however, is not simply a succession of data, but an argumentative synthesis. Thus, the final section debates the implications of this nexus both for popular music studies itself, and also in cultural policy and regulation, the ethics of citizenship, and arguments about human rights.
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