I have several articles here about the Goth subculture in the hopes that it might be able to explain some things to you, especially about teenagers.
This first one was a very interesting read, now they are looking at the British Teenager in this article but it is possible that it might apply to American Teenagers as well.
But I would add one caveat to parents, if you discover your child is deliberately harming themselves take them to a professional for serious help, because it is beyond what you can do, but be supportive and understanding and work with both the doctor and your child, try to engage your child as well, and tell them you want to understand what they are going through and also their likes and dis-likes.
Eventually try to bring positive things into their lives, have them explore creative writing, art, music, even film making but try to oversee what they are doing, although they may be embarrassed let them know that you take a positive interest in what they are doing and if it seems negative ask them why they are going in this vein.
If your life is busy have them be engaged in it, make them a part of it as well. You will see that families that do things together remain healthy in mind and emotions.
For myself it was not unusual for my family to have a game night, although it would be hard to play cards with my younger brother and sister, I had to help them count up the numbers but playing “Old Maid” with a regular deck of cards and declaring the Queen of Spades as the Old Maid always helped.
It did help draw us closer together, something that parents need to do.
Goth subculture may protect vulnerable children
About half of teenage goths have deliberately harmed themselves or attempted suicide, a new study suggests. But joining the modern subculture - which grew out of the 1980s gothic rock scene - may actually protect vulnerable children, researchers say.
The study followed 1258 young people who were interviewed at ages 11, 13, 15 and 19. It found that of those who considered themselves goths, 53% had self-harmed and 47% had tried to commit suicide. The average prevalence of self-harm among young people in the UK is 7% to 14%. Self-harm includes behaviours such as cutting or burning oneself. And about 6% of young people admit suicide attempts. Some studies suggest the incidence is rising in society.
Researchers at University of Glasgow found that while most self-harmers started the practice at age 12 to 13, they did not become goths until they were a couple of years older, on average.
"One common suggestion is they may be copying subcultural icons or peers [when they self-harm], but our study found that more young people reported self-harm before, rather than after, becoming a goth. This suggests that young people with a tendency to self-harm are attracted to the goth subculture," says Robert Young, who led the study.
"Rather than posing a risk, it's also possible that by belonging to the goth subculture, young people are gaining valuable social and emotional support from their peers." But he cautions: "However, the study was based on small numbers and replication is needed to confirm our results." Only 25 participants felt strongly associated with goth culture.
Self-harming, Young says, is a behaviour that people often employ as a mechanism to deal with negative emotions. "It may be used as a quick-fix. "Some physiological studies suggest, or are compatible with the theory that endorphins [brain chemicals that produce a feeling of well-being] are released after episodes of self-harm," he told New Scientist.
Just 2% of the adolescents in the study identified with goth culture, although 8% said they had identified with it at some point in their lives. But it is a strongly non-violent and accepting subculture, which teens may find offers a supportive environment.
Michael van Beinum, a psychiatrist for children and adolescents, who advised on the study, agrees: "For some young people with mental health problems, a goth subculture may be attractive as it may allow them to find a community within which it may be easier for their distress to be understood."
The 1980s goth culture grew out of the post-Punk movement and underwent a revival in the mid-1990s. Central to goth belief is the black aesthetic - taking icons that society regards as evil, such as skull imagery, and making them beautiful.
Journal reference: British Medical Journal (vol 332, p 909)
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This second article is also informative and worth reading:
Honest to Goth, it's just a circle of friends
November 14, 2004
|By Emily Sweeney, The Boston Globe.
"I've rarely seen Gothic figures portrayed in a good light in the news, the media and the movies," Feinn said. "We get such a bad rap."
In middle school, Feinn's classmates called her a "Satan worshiper" because she wore dark clothes. Ironically, Feinn left that public school to attend an all-girls Catholic high school that requires school uniforms.More recently, Feinn's high school classmates gave her friend Mike the nickname "Columbine" because he wears long trenchcoats, an innocuous article of clothing that became synonymous with school shootings five years ago.
Those notorious long coats and the term "Goth" made headlines in 1999 when two Colorado teens attacked their high school, shooting to death students and teachers. Authorities initially described the gunmen as Goths, because they often wore black clothes to school and dubbed themselves "The Trenchcoat Mafia."
Media coverage of the Columbine High School massacre thrust Gothic subculture into the national spotlight, and almost overnight the G-word became inextricably linked to school violence, even though the Columbine killers shared no attributes found in the Goth subculture, with the exception of dark clothing.
Fast-forward to last month, when once again the media quickly classified a troubled teen as a Goth. When police in Marshfield announced that they had arrested a 16-year-old for allegedly plotting a school shooting, TV broadcasts and newspaper articles called the suspect a "Goth" and referred to another student there as a "skinhead." Friends of the Marshfield High suspect say he doesn't consider himself to be Goth.
These recent news reports bothered Goths such as Basim Usmani, a 21-year-old college student from Lexington, Mass. Usmani read with concern about the hit list and homemade bomb allegedly built in Marshfield, but wondered why the style of the suspect's clothes was reported as a significant fact in the story.
"There's no relevance at all. Music and fashion have little to do in violence in school," Usmani said. "There's no violence in [the Goth] subculture."
The Goth subculture is not the first youth movement to be misunderstood by the public. Skinheads have been stereotyped for decades. Because news reports and TV shows typically portray skinheads as racists or neo-Nazis, many people are unaware that the traditional skinhead culture that began in the late 1960s had nothing to do with race and everything to do with working-class pride. This holds true today.
There are skinheads of all ethnicities, gay and straight, and organized groups of SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) that span the globe.
"Just because you have a shaved head and listen to Oi [a form of punk music popular with skinheads], does that mean you're a neo-Nazi?" Usmani asked rhetorically. "Shaving your head and dressing in black is not evidence of racism or violent action. The public looks for easy answers."
Gothic subculture surfaced in Britain during the 1970s as an offshoot of punk. Fans drawn to the haunting music of bands such as the Cure, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie & the Banshees dressed in black clothes and wore dramatic makeup like the musicians. Cemeteries, gargoyles, vampires and castles--all of those stereotypical Goth elements from Gothic literature of the 19th Century and old horror films--influenced the sounds and fashion of the early Goth scene, such as the 1979 Bauhas song "Bela Lugosi's Dead."
With time, the Goth movement has evolved into different styles. Some Goths emulate fashion from Victorian and Edwardian eras, while "cybergoths" get decked out in bright makeup and neon outfits, swinging glowsticks to the faster beats of industrial music.
The darker elements of the Goth scene usually are used in a tongue-in-cheek way. At ManRay nightclub in Cambridge, Goth nights have included comedy skits onstage and quirky events such as the Miss Gothic Massachusetts pageant.
"Subcultures like Goth are easy targets, instead of addressing the real reasons, like overworked teachers and lack of guidance and good parenting as the root cause of violence in school among adolescents," Usmani said. "That's what we need to look at, the more serious root causes [of school violence]."
Experts tend to agree. Goths are no more likely to lash out than any other group, according to Daniel J. Monti, a sociology professor at Boston University. "I think it's simple-minded on the part of people to pay so much attention to one particular set of students because of the way they look and the way they dress," Monti said.
Though many Goths are perceived as outcasts and loners, the Goth scene is actually a thriving community of friends, according to Eloni Feliciano, founder of the Miss Gothic Massachusetts pageant, an annual event that celebrates the lighter side of Boston's Goth scene.
"I have never considered the scene to be a gateway to violence against my peers. In fact, quite the opposite; I always felt that the scene was a cohesive community that gave me support during tough times," said Feliciano. "The Goth community itself is more like Jack Skellington from `A Nightmare Before Christmas'--gentle, inquisitive and a little odd."
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I really like that last explanation “gentle, inquisitive and a little odd.” That really is the healthy way of being Goth but as with anything especially for a parent always check in with your children give them boundaries but also talk to them, even if they don’t want to talk to you, talk to them, explain things to them, tell them you are listening and trying to understand but understanding is a two-way street, and your teen needs to talk to you and listen to what you the parent are trying to understand.
I have a friend of mine, she isn’t really Goth but in many ways even for her perkiness she is more Goth than many Darklings that I know. But she works in the real world; she has a step-son who spends time with her and his Dad, her husband, alternating between his Dad and my friend and his rather restrictive Mother. He’s into the Goth culture but my friend encourages him to do creative writing, even loaning him her precious portable typewriter that saw her though high school and college, so that if he has any late night inspiration he can type it out on the old manual machine.
More than once she’s heard the clack-clack of those typewriter keys. The next day as he dragged his sleepy self out of bed she’d say “I heard you typing last night, got a story idea?” and he’d tell her what it is, she’d ask if she could read it, he’d say “well it’s got typing mistakes.” She’d say “Well I’ll proof read it for you” and he’d let her. His stories always captivated her, she’d remark to him from time to time with praise such as “I love how in just a few sentences I can picture this person” or “This is very deep, but what exactly are you trying to convey?” and he’d explain so they would work together with her just being a sounding board for his ideas.
She’d never say “I don’t like this” or anything like that, but she’d try to understand what is going on in his mind. One day he was talking to her about a band he was really into “Cradle of Filth” and some of the visuals that he saw on You Tube, she went onto You Tube to see what it was that captured his imagination. It did raise her eyebrows but nothing that she thought was of a violent nature, just bizarre.
She listened to a copy of a CD he had made, and gave him her honest opinion of it which was “I really like the instrumentals, but I’m afraid that the vocalization is a bit off-putting, but in terms of music, instrumental wise I like it” so they’d talk about the vocals and what they and other band groups are trying to project.
One day he came to her, he was so excited and sad at the same time; his friend was going to a Cradle of Filth concert, his friend’s Mom was going to chaperon and he wanted to go with them---well there was a problem, his Mom, her husband’s ex-wife did not want him to go and would not give him the money. My friend saw how it just pained him, so she said to her husband “He’s going to the concert” Well her husband was like “You know his Mom is going to explode” and my friend said “When I was 16 I missed going to a Rolling Stones concert and it hurt me, I know now as an adult why I missed it, but it was a big thing in my life and at the time I was very angry with my parents, it was a once in a life time chance to see them, they never did come back here. I’m not going to have him go through that disappointment, he’s going to be chaperoned (which she checked out), we’ll get him there” it wasn’t easy they didn’t have much money to spare, but she scraped the funds together and they had Mac and Cheese and Tuna for a week, but her step-son went to the concert
Of course the boy’s Mother did explode, but her explanations about why she didn’t want him to go were really weak, it seems that his Mom and her boyfriend were going to go to Disneyland (for the 4th time and not take the boy with them) and didn’t want to give up any funds. My friend (who is the boy’s step-mom), pointed out the Mother’s selfishness and said that she was going to suggest to the boy to seek legal consul about permanently moving in with his Dad, the Mother didn’t want that and backed down.
The boy talked about that concert for weeks and weeks and thought that my friend and his Dad were really the greatest people in the world, understanding about how he felt about seeing it. My friend even would purchase Cradle of Filth tee-shirts for him if he saw a pattern he liked because you had to be over 18 to purchase them.
He’s an adult now and a creative writer, he still talks about that concert and how she and his Dad gave him that chance. And yes he is a bit different and Goth but he looks at my friend as she dresses like June Cleaver from “Leave it to Beaver” and knows that she’s got Goth in her soul.
And that is what helps parents work to understand their Goth teenager and help them get through those troubled years. It may not work for all children as they are facing far more difficult problems than I did in my years growing up, but it is a start.