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Straight Edge Subculture: Examining the Youths' Drug-Free Way

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 1999 Pages: 365-380
Darrell D. Irwin
Date Published
16 pages
This article reports on a study that drew on interviews with and ethnographic research on "Straight Edge" youths, who support a drug-free lifestyle, and discusses aspects of their alternative identity.
The ethnographic field observation allowed for detailed descriptions of the Straight Edge subculture that are provided by participants telling their own stories. A snowball sampling procedure was used to identify youth who were Straight Edge participants. Field observations were conducted over a 9-month period in 1996 at several concerts held at the East End YMCA on Long Island, as well as in New York City. The author assumed the role of participant-observer by recording the narratives of Straight Edge youth during these events. Additional data were obtained through a self-report survey distributed by the author to youths at the East End YMCA concerts. Thirty-two youths were surveyed at one such concert, and their responses provided general information on the Straight Edge scene. A typical Straight Edge concert emphasizes the Straight Edge "positive" identity and provides drug-free inspiration at the symbolic level. The author discusses the evolution of the Straight Edge scene as an alternative to the traditional youth culture on Long Island. It has promoted basic changes in the social norms regarding drug use among youth groups. It is now evident that Straight Edge youth are a unique subculture with identifiable characteristics such as drug-free attitudes, vegetarianism, and the love of "hardcore" music. Whether Straight Edge ever develops into a movement or remains a small-scale scene remains to be determined. 2 notes, glossary, and 49 references