The Dark Side of Teen Goths

It's never easy being a teenager, but a study of teen social groups shows that it's perhaps most tough on kids who identify as "goths" -- a group fascinated by the darker side of human nature.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland surveyed more than 1,258 young adults several times throughout their teen years. In the study, which was published in today's issue of the British Medical Journal, 53 percent of teens who said they were goths admitted to self-harm, and 47 percent said they had attempted suicide.

"Although only fairly small numbers of young people identify as belonging to the goth subculture, rates of self-harm and attempted suicide are very high among this group," said lead researcher Robert Young.

"Self-harm" was defined as deliberately cutting, burning, hitting or poisoning oneself.

However, Young pointed out that the study found that teens were more likely to have hurt themselves before developing an interest in the gothic subculture, suggesting that troubled kids may be attracted to the goths, not that goth subculture promotes self-injury.

"Mental health problems are common in young people, and there is evidence that they are on the increase. 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," said Dr. Michael van Beinum, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and adviser to the study.

On the other hand, kids who said they were into pop, hip-hop or indie culture had much lower rates of self-harm.

While adults who work with teens should recognize that goth teens may be more inclined to self-harm, van Beinum said that "further provision of mental health services for all young people is urgently required."