In this thesis I will examine relationships between metal music and community participation and the mental well-being of so-called “emerging adults” within these communities. Building upon previous research on these relationships, I examine how emerging adult mental well-being is affected – both positively and negatively – by engagement and involvement in metal music communities. Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, I employ ethnographic fieldwork, person-centered interviews, and survey methods to describe how not just metal music but other “ritual” activities of metal music culture enact euphoric and also sometimes potentially detrimental effects on the mental health of emerging adults within these communities. Through these methods, I aim to detail how in a paradoxical sense the chaos and aggression inherent in metal music can confer therapeutic calm to individuals through identification with the music, the group, and the performances conducted within these metal music communities.
The introductory Chapter One will first serve to provide an overview of what is exactly meant when describing heavy metal music communities, as ambiguities exist not only in the common understanding of the subculture, but also in the academic literature. In addition to this, a brief history of metal music communities will be discussed, detailing public perceptions, stigmas, and moral panics associated with the music and its fans. The chapter will be closed with a discussion of the research site, scope, and overall aims of the study, namely to provide greater insights into the mental health and well-being of emerging adults within these music scenes.
Chapter Two consists of a review of existing literature on this subject, accounting for research within psychological anthropology, sociology, public health, popular music studies, and adolescent and emerging adult psychology. This Chapter will describe not just previous studies on heavy metal music communities, but should also provide a foundation on which this current study rests. Drawing upon literature and theory from these fields, the question of emerging adult mental health within these music scenes can be better understood, not just in terms of accuracy from a scholarly perspective, but also driven by emic perspective from the field.
In seeking answers to these questions, Chapter Three will discuss the methodology and research design of this study. Attention will be given to the study population, site, locales, and scope and the rationale for using particular methods employed in this study. Chapter Four follows, detailing the analyses of data generated from the field and the results gathered throughout each step of research. Results will be described in both quantitative and qualitative terms, hoping to thus better clarify this study’s central question.
Limitations of the research will be described in the concluding segments of this chapter. Finally, Chapter Five will discuss the results of this study in relation to theory and previous research, future impacts and considerations in this field, and concluding remarks regarding the relationship between metal music and the mental health of emerging adults.