Music through the ages: Trends in musical engagement and preferences from adolescence through middle adulthood

Arielle Bonneville-Roussy, Peter J Rentfrow, Man K Xu, Jeff Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Are there developmental trends in how individuals experience and engage with music? Data from 2 large cross-sectional studies involving more than a quarter of a million individuals were used to investigate age differences in musical attitudes and preferences from adolescence through middle age. Study 1 investigated age trends in musical engagement. Results indicated that (a) the degree of importance attributed to music declines with age but that adults still consider music important, (b) young people listen to music significantly more often than do middle-aged adults, and (c) young people listen to music in a wide variety of contexts, whereas adults listen to music primarily in private contexts. Study 2 examined age trends in musical preferences. Results indicated that (a) musical preferences can be conceptualized in terms of a 5-dimensional age-invariant model, (b) certain music-preference dimensions decrease with age (e.g., Intense, Contemporary), whereas preferences for other music dimensions increase with age (e.g., Unpretentious, Sophisticated), and (c) age trends in musical preferences are closely associated with personality. Normative age trends in musical preferences corresponded with developmental changes in psychosocial development, personality, and auditory perception. Overall, the findings suggest that musical preferences are subject to a variety of developmental influences throughout the life span.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-17
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Attitude
  • Auditory Perception
  • Choice Behavior
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Great Britain
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music
  • Personality
  • United States
  • Young Adult

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