1980s Metalhead Kids Are Alright: Scientific Study Shows That They Became Well-Adjusted Adults

In the 1980s, The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), an organization co-founded by Tipper Gore and the wives of several other Washington power brokers, launched a political campaign against pop music, hoping to put warning labels on records that promoted Sex, Violence, Drug and Alcohol Use. Along the way, the PMRC issued “the Filthy Fifteen,” a list of 15 particularly objectionable songs. Hits by Madonna, Prince and Cyndi Lauper made the list. But the list really took aim at heavy metal bands from the 80s — namely, Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, and Venom. (Interesting footnote: the Soviets separately created a list of blackballed rock bands, and it looked pretty much the same.)

Above, you can watch Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider appear before Congress in 1985 and accuse the PMRC of misinterpreting his band’s lyrics and waging a false war against metal music. The evidence 30 years later suggests that Snider perhaps had a point.

A study by psychology researchers at Humboldt StateOhio State, UC Riverside and UT Austin “examined 1980s heavy metal groupies, musicians, and fans at middle age” — 377 participants in total — and found that, although metal enthusiasts certainly lived riskier lives as kids, they were nonetheless “significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college-age youth comparison groups.” This left the researchers to contemplate one possible conclusion: “participation in fringe style cultures may enhance identity development in troubled youth.” Not to mention that heavy metal lyrics don’t easily turn kids into damaged goods.

You can read the report, Three Decades Later: The Life Experiences and Mid-Life Functioning of 1980s Heavy Metal Groupies here. And, right above, listen to an interview with one of the researchersTasha Howe, a former headbanger herself, who spoke yesterday with Michael Krasny on KQED radio in San Francisco.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in July 2015.

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Related Content:

The Devilish History of the 1980s Parental Advisory Sticker: When Heavy Metal & Satanic Lyrics Collided with the Religious Right

Soviet Union Creates a List of 38 Dangerous Rock Bands: Kiss, Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, Village People & More (1985)

Watch Heavy Metal Parking Lot, the Cult Classic Film That Ranks as One of the “Great Rock Documentaries” of All Time

A Bluegrass Version of Metallica’s Heavy Metal Hit, “Enter Sandman”

The Hu, a New Breakthrough Band from Mongolia, Plays Heavy Metal with Traditional Folk Instruments and Throat Singing

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Comments (14)
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  • Robert Fontenot says:

    Well adjusted to a dysfunctional society.

  • D. Colburn says:

    The group representatives who did not live to middle age were not available to comment.

  • Joan Jett says:

    Fantastic article with no better voice to speak for a world of heavy metal. Thank you God !

  • Dave Dark says:

    Of course they would be! Breaking the Law, Fighting for the Right to Party, with girls girls girls,then!The Plasmatics! With WENDY O blowing up cars by smashing them with a sledgehammer and chainsawing TV’s with one of the most epic Mohawks ever, tape over her nipples, terrifying the masculinity of the weak as water of the ball less male eago of that time!Put Your Love In Me! The Plasmatics! Talk about the melting of a snowflake! The most interesting man in the world? Not that Do’s what ever beer guy! BRUCE IS! IRON MAIDEN, WAS A WORLD CLASS FENCER, FLYING COMRCIEAL JET AIRLINES NOW, MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER, DIDN’T JUST HAND OFF THE BREWING OF THE TROOPER BEER AND OTHER BEERS AFTER! HE ACTUALLY WAS HANDS ON WITH IT! WHEN HE DRINKS BEER, IT’S NOT WHILE FLYING ED FORCE ONE TO THE NEXT SOLD OUT IRON MAIDEN SHOW, BUT WHEN HE DOES IT A TROOPER BREW! BY THE WAY DID I MENTION HE FRONTS ONE THE MOST EPIC MEATAL BANDS OF ALL TIME, WITH AN AMAZING VOICE TO BOOT! WHAT ABOUT THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION? WHO WOULD WIN THE FIGHT BETWEEN LEMMY AND GOD? TRICK ? LEMMY IS GOD!THE Meaning of life! What do you want to do with your life? Answer! I WANNA ROCK!ALSO BUT THESE GO TO 11!

  • darth plastic says:

    — 377 participants in total —
    really?….that’s it?….that’s sad……
    obviously they’ve never listened to Dyed In Grey.

  • Chris Cronk says:

    Well, well, well….well-adjusted, that is. Metal saves the day. Now, if we can get this generation’s attention….we might be able to “save” and adjust them.

  • Kirk Gidley says:

    There is no such thing as former head banger.. It’s for life

  • JMBC says:

    Love this… most all of the “metalheads”, and “fringe societal” kids that I have known, are now well adjusted, well educated, rational, critical thinking adults; and fantastic parents!
    It is nice, to know others, who aren’t 24/7 on their phones (myself included), and question/research before making decisions, not just take the opinion of others what is right. The day you stand in oine with the all the other sheeple, and decide that everything from tradition, to politics, dictated what is the truth – is the day, true human critical thinking has become obsolete.

  • Cath says:

    les moutons de ma génération sont tellement aveugle et sourd s’en en est malheureux et sa me rend malade.

  • Jigster says:

    And it all started with BLACK SABBATH!!

  • Thy Profet von Dronterlagen says:

    Metal is freedom for them who love to think freely, for them who don’t wanna get brainwashed by society’s media machines, that says you should like this and this.

    And you need some more than average iq to understand the compositions, have a trained ear, to start love all the earcandies this genera have made the past 50 years. So its understandable that it is attacked by them who dont understand it.

    I bet theres less drugs on metal gigs than rap and rave parties. At least the legal variants.

  • Bill H says:

    Not dead in the gutter as many predicted. Went to College of the Redwoods on baseball scholarship near Humboldt State. Survived the Green Triangle of Humboldt County while living on Humboldt Hill with enough brain cells left to function. Moved on to Oklahoma to finish baseball & BS degree. Got DPT degree from 1st Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy in the country, Creighton University. Listen to heavy metal every day while doing my documentation. Still seeing heavy metal concerts today, taking my wife and kids. Rock On!

  • Donna says:

    Rock on!

  • Dan's says:

    I was going to say the same thing. Been a metalhead for over 30 years. Wouldn’t have it any other way. \m/

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