The effectiveness of a short-term group music therapy intervention for parents who have a child with a disability

Williams, Kate Elizabeth (2010) The effectiveness of a short-term group music therapy intervention for parents who have a child with a disability. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The relationship between the quality of parent-child interactions and positive child developmental trajectories is well established (Guralnick, 2006; Shonkoff & Meissels, 2000; Zubrick et al., 2008). However, a range of parental, family, and socio-economic factors can pose risks to parents’ capacity to participate in quality interactions with their children. In particular, families with a child with a disability have been found to have higher levels of parenting stress, and are more likely to experience economic disadvantage, as well as social isolation. The importance of early interventions to promote positive parenting and child development for these families is widely recognised (Shonkoff & Meissels, 2000). However, to date, there is a lack of evidence about the effectiveness of early parenting programs for families who have a young child with a disability. This thesis investigates the impact of a music therapy parenting program, Sing & Grow, on 201 parent-child dyads who attended programs specifically targeted to parents who had a young child with a disability. Sing & Grow is an Australian national early parenting intervention funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and delivered by Playgroup Queensland. It is designed and delivered by Registered Music Therapists for families with children aged from birth to three years. It aims to improve parenting skills and confidence, improve family functioning (positive parent-child interactions), enhance child development, and provide social networking opportunities to socially isolated families. The intervention targets a range of families in circumstances that have the potential to impact negatively on family functioning. This thesis uses data from the National Evaluation Study of Sing & Grow from programs which were targeted at families who had a young child with a disability. Three studies were conducted to address the objectives of this thesis. Study 1 examines the effects of the Sing & Grow intervention on parent reported pre and post parent mental health, parenting confidence, parenting skills, and child development, and other parent reported outcomes including social support, use of intervention resources, satisfaction with the intervention and perceived benefits of and barriers to participation. Significant improvements from pre to post were found for parent mental health and parent reported child communication and social skills, along with evidence that parents were very satisfied with the program and that it brought social benefits to families. Study 2 explored the pre to post effects of the intervention on children’s developmental skills and parent-child interactions using observational ratings made by clinicians. Significant pre to post improvements were found for parenting sensitivity, parental engagement with child and acceptance of child as well as for child responsiveness to parent, interest, and participation in the intervention, and social skills. Study 3 examined the nature of child and family characteristics that predicted better outcomes for families while taking account of the level of participation in the program. An overall outcome index was calculated and served as the dependent variable in a logistic regression analysis. Families who attended six or more sessions and mothers who had not completed high school were more likely to have higher outcome scores at post intervention than those who attended fewer sessions and those with more educated mothers respectively. The findings of this research indicate that the intervention had a positive impact on participants’ mental health, parenting behaviours and child development and that level of attendance was associated with better outcomes. There was also evidence that the program reached its target of high risk families (i.e., families in which mothers had lower educational levels) and that for these families better outcomes were achieved. There were also indications that the program was accessible and highly regarded by families and that it promoted social connections for participants. A theoretical model of how the intervention is currently working for families is proposed to explain the connections between early parenting, child development and maternal wellbeing. However, more research is required to further elucidate the mechanisms by which the intervention creates change for families. This research presents promising evidence that a short term group music therapy program can elicit important therapeutic benefits for families who have a child with a disability.

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ID Code: 37643
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Berthelsen, Donna, Walker, Susan, & Nicholson, Jan
Keywords: music therapy, disabled children
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 Sep 2010 02:13
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 20:00

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