New research suggests making music a part of a child’s life improves their skill set, sense of self-worth and relationship with their parents and family.
There’s no question — music is highly conducive to children as they navigate various stages of development. Musical engagement, whether it be through passive enjoyment or active, participatory performance, has been long known to enhance a growing child’s cognitive, social and physical skills. Additionally, music promotes discipline and self-esteem.
Now a recent study from the University of Arizona found that parents who share musical moments with their teenagers are more likely to benefit from closer, more meaningful relationships as their children enter adulthood.
Researchers Sandi D. Wallace and Jake Harwood discovered engaging in simple, shared musical activity, like listening to music together in the car, is an easy way to reap the long-term benefits of familial musical bonding.
Young adults were surveyed about musical experiences they’ve had with their parents, such as collective listening, playing instruments, or attending concerts. The subjects were between the ages of eight and 13, and 14 and older. Wallace and Harwood controlled for other parent-child pastimes in order to focus in on the music connection.
Although their study found all musical experiences recounted “were associated with better perceptions of parent-child relationship quality in young adulthood,” those that took place during the participant’s adolescent stage had the most “pronounced” effects.
Harwood explains this trend by noting how musical activity between parents and teenagers is significantly less common than that of parents and pre-pubescent children, who often spend time singing lullabies and nursery rhymes together.
Several studies have demonstrated music’s heavy influence on the feelings of closeness and connection due to its ability to directly impact emotionally relevant neuro-chemicals. In another study, researchers discovered collective musical performance indirectly activates bonding between individuals by eliciting greater positive emotion through endorphin release.
The focus of Wallace and Harwood’s study centers more on how natural musical reactivity fosters bonding between parents and children. Engaging in coordinated activities as a group, or with at least one other person, is proven to “cause [individuals] to like one another more.”
Researchers also found engaging in complex musical activity isn’t necessary for bonding or fostering closeness. Just listening to music as a family yields similar results. Casual musical experiences, such as listening to music in the car or while doing chores at home, are more effective for relationship building than more complex or structured musical experiences, such as attending concerts or playing in a band together.
The overall message: turning up the volume amplifies family bonding.
Music Strengthens Parent-Child Relationships: Sources
Journal of Family Communication: Associations Between Shared Musical Engagement and
Futurity: To Bond with Your Kids, Turn on Some Music
University of Arizona: To Improve Relationship with Child, Try Turning Up Music
Greater Good Magazine: How Music Bonds Us Together
PubMed: Performance of Music’s Positive Effects