Effects of Developmental Music Groups for Parents and Premature or Typical Infants under Two Years on Parental Responsiveness and Infant Social Development

By Walworth, Darcy D. PhD, Nicu-Mt, Mt-Bc | Journal of Music Therapy, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Effects of Developmental Music Groups for Parents and Premature or Typical Infants under Two Years on Parental Responsiveness and Infant Social Development


Walworth, Darcy D. PhD, Nicu-Mt, Mt-Bc, Journal of Music Therapy


The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of music therapy intervention on premature infants' and full term infants' developmental responses and parents' responsiveness. Subjects (n = 56) were parent-infant dyads who attended developmental music groups or a control condition assessing responsiveness during toy play. All subjects were matched according to developmental age and were also matched by group for socioeconomic status and for maternal depression. Types of infant play and parent responsiveness were measured using observation of a standardized toy play for parent-infant dyads. Observations were coded with the number of seconds spent in each behavior using the SCRIBE observation program. Parents completed a questionnaire on the perception of their infant's general development, interpretations of their child's needs, the purpose of using music with their child, and their child's response to music. The infants attending the developmental music groups with their parents demonstrated significantly more social toy play (p < .05) during the standardized parent-infant toy play than infants who did not attend the music groups. While not significant, graphic analysis of parent responsiveness showed parents who attended the developmental music groups engaged in more positive and less negative play behaviors with their infants than parents who did not attend the music groups. This study demonstrates the first findings of positive effects of developmental music groups on social behaviors for both premature and full term infants under 2 years old.

Introduction and Review of Literature

Interest is continually growing in the variables affecting developmental milestone achievement during infancy and early childhood. As existing child development theories are modified and new theories are created, many teachers and clinicians are using aspects of multiple theories to form their foundation for teaching and interventions. When assessing the developmental ability of a child, domains typically evaluated include cognition, communication, motor, social, emotional, vision, hearing, and self-regulation. Professionals providing services for children with special needs are encouraged to actively involve parents and siblings in the process to create a partnership of responsibility for the child's development (Cook, Klein, Tessier, & Daley, 2004). The mother-infant relationship affects development across domains largely due to the continuing reciprocity present in the relationship (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998).

Research on how music affects developmental domains of the infant is commonly domain specific. To date, most research focuses on an infant's cognitive awareness of musical features. Yet, research on maternal and paternal interaction and music is very limited and is an area necessitating further investigation. It has been demonstrated that through music and other aesthetic activities children develop social, language and communication skills (Broström, 2001). Littleton (1999) researched mother and infant interactions during an unstructured home observation and found a pattern of up to 20-minute musical interactions occurring, which involved vocalizations and physical movement. Infants also responded by gazing, smiling, vocalizing, cooing, kicking, tapping, waving, and reaching out to touch the mother's face or musical toy when the mothers initiated music-play actions. After reviewing research on music and infant development, Fox (2000) recommended young children be active participants in making music through movement, singing, and playing instruments. Other recommendations for music groups for very young children stress the importance of empowering parents by giving them the ability and knowledge to make music with their children in the home environment (Fox, 2000; Ilari, 2003).

When investigating the effects of music on very young children, parents have been thought to be the most important factor in determining the child's level of exposure and development that is impacted by music interactions or music exploration. …

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Effects of Developmental Music Groups for Parents and Premature or Typical Infants under Two Years on Parental Responsiveness and Infant Social Development
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