Leiden Psychology Blog

Bieber Fever - Why teens obsess over celebrities

Bieber Fever - Why teens obsess over celebrities By Joe Bielawa

The arena is filled with excitement, lights go dim and an intense roar rises up from the stadium full of fans, as their idol enters the stage. Most of these fans are teenage girls - why are teenagers especially prone to obsessing over pop stars?

Intense feelings of worship for famous people are not uncommon. Although adults can look up to celebrities, these feelings are most prevalent in adolescents. For instance Justin Bieber has an extremely strong fan base of mostly teenage girls, also known as the Beliebers. With the growing use of media such as television and the internet, teens are exposed to a wide range of celebrities. What is the influence of celebrities on adolescents, and why is it especially this age group that can become obsessed by celebrities?

Adolescence is a time of social reorientation, with a shift away from parents and towards peers. Peers become extremely important and adolescents start spending more time with their friends. One of the challenges of adolescence is finding a position within the peer group. To successfully do this, or in other words, to be accepted, it is important to learn the rules of the group. One way to decipher these is to look up to and learn from a role model. Where in childhood parents would serve as a role model, adolescents need new role models as they become more and more independent from their parents. This is exactly where celebrities come in.

In a recent study it was  found that adolescents who are more autonomous, i.e., more independent from their parents, are also more attached to celebrities, which indicates that celebrities take over from parents as role models. Possibly, celebrities provide an insight into the adult world as teenagers can look up to them to see what is appropriate behavior. This is usually part of a healthy move away from parents.

Although this behavior is for the most part normative for teenagers, parents can be worried about their children becoming overly attached to celebrities. This concern is not always unfounded: sometimes the worship can take on extreme forms. For instance, when pictures emerged of Justin Bieber kissing his girlfriend she later received death threats from extreme Bieber fans via Twitter. Luckily, it is only a small percentage of people who develop problems due to their excessive adulation of celebrities. Mostly, it is a phenomenon related to adolescence and declines naturally with age.

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