Punks, Goths, and Other Eye-Catching Peer Crowds: Do They Fulfill a Function for Shy Youths?


Requests for reprints should be sent to Nejra Bešić, Center for Developmental Research at BSR, Örebro University, 701 82 Örebro, Sweden. E-mail: nejra.Besic@bsr.oru.se


Adolescent peer crowds such as Punks and Goths are mainly identified by their strikingly unusual or even shocking appearances. Although many studies find these crowds, few have tried to explain why some youths take on these startling or shocking appearances. We hypothesized that an off-putting appearance is a way to cope with behavioral inhibition by limiting social contacts. Using data from 1,200 7th–11th graders, we compared peer crowds characterized by their startling appearance (“Radical” crowds) with three theoretically relevant comparison groups. Results showed that youths affiliating with Radical crowds were more inhibited than other youths, including those in crowds previously shown to be shy or socially anxious. Inhibited Radicals, however, had poorer emotional adjustment than inhibited youths in other crowds. If Radical styles are a way for inhibited youths to cope by limiting social contacts, the strategy does not seem to be beneficial for emotional adjustment.