The effectiveness of a short-term group music therapy intervention for young parents and their children

Abad, Vicky Shirley Anne (2011) The effectiveness of a short-term group music therapy intervention for young parents and their children. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The quality of early life experiences are known to influence a child’s capacities for emotional, social, cognitive and physical competence throughout their life (Peterson, 1996; Zubrick et al., 2008). These early life experiences are directly affected by parenting and family environments. A lack of positive parenting has significant implications both for children, and the broader communities in which they live (Davies & Cummings, 1994; Dryfoos, 1990; Sanders, 1995). Young parents are known to be at risk of experiencing adverse circumstances that affect their ability to provide positive parenting to their children (Milan et al., 2004; Trad, 1995). There is a need to provide parenting support programs to young parents that offer opportunities for them to come together, support each other and learn ways to provide for their children’s developmental needs in a friendly, engaging and non-judgemental environment. This research project examines the effectiveness of a 10 week group music therapy program Sing & Grow as an early parenting intervention for 535 young parents. Sing & Grow is a national early parenting intervention program funded by the Australian Government and delivered by Playgroup Queensland. It is designed and delivered by Registered Music Therapists for families at risk of marginalisation with children aged from birth to three years. The aim of the program is to improve parenting skills and parent-child interactions, and increase social support networks through participation in a group that is strengths-based and structured in a way that lends itself to modelling, peer learning and facilitated learning. During the 10 weeks parents have opportunities to learn practical, hands-on ways to interact and play with their children that are conducive to positive parent-child relationships and ongoing child development. A range of interactive, nurturing, stimulating and developmental music activities provide the framework for parents to interact and play with their children. This research uses data collected through the Sing & Grow National Evaluation Study to examine outcomes for all participants aged 25 years and younger, who attended programs during the Sing & Grow pilot study and main study from mid-2005 to the end of 2007. The research examines the change from pre to post in self-reported parent behaviours, parent mental health and parent social support, and therapist observed parent-child interactions. A range of statistical analyses are used to address each Research Objective for the young parent population, and for subgroups within this population. Research Objective 1 explored the patterns of attendance in the Sing & Grow program for young parents, and for subgroups within this population. Results showed that levels of attendance were lower than expected and influenced by Indigenous status and source of family income. Patterns of attendance showed a decline over time and incomplete data rates were high which may indicate high dropout rates. Research Objective 2 explored perceived satisfaction, benefits and social support links made. Satisfaction levels with the program and staff were very high. Indigenous status was associated with lower levels of reported satisfaction with both the program and staff. Perceived benefits from participation in the program were very high. Employment status was associated with perceived benefits: parents who were not employed were more likely than employed parents to report that their understanding of child development had increased as a result of participation in the program. Social support connections were reported for participants with other professionals, services and parents. In particular, families were more likely to link up with playgroup staff and services. Those parents who attended six or more sessions were significantly more likely to attend a playgroup than those who attended five sessions or less. Social support connections were related to source of family income, level of education, Indigenous status and language background. Research Objective 3 investigated pre to post change on self-report parenting skills and parent mental health. Results indicated that participation in the Sing & Grow program was associated with improvements in parent mental health. No improvements were found for self-reported parenting skills. Research Objective 4 investigated pre to post change in therapist observation measures of parent-child interactions. Results indicated that participation in the Sing & Grow program was associated with large and significant improvements in parent sensitivity to, engagement with and acceptance of the child. There were significant interactions across time (pre to post) for the parent characteristics of Indigenous status, family income and level of education. Research Objective 5 explored the relationship between the number of sessions attended and extent of change on self-report outcomes and therapist observed outcomes, respectively. For each, an overall change score was devised to ascertain those parents who had made any positive changes over time. Results showed that there was no significant relationship between high attendance and positive change in either the self-report or therapist observed behavioural measures. A risk index was also constructed to test for a relationship between the risk status of the parent. Parents with the highest risk status were significantly more likely to attend six or more sessions than other parents, but risk status was not associated with any differences in parent reported outcomes or therapist observations. The results of this research study indicate that Sing & Grow is effective in improving outcomes for young parents’ mental health, parent-child interactions and social support connections. High attendance by families in the highest category for risk factors may indicate that the program is effective at engaging and retaining parents who are most at-risk and therefore traditionally hard to reach. Very high levels of satisfaction and perceived benefits support this. Further research is required to help confirm the promising evidence from the current study that a short term group music therapy program can support young parents and improve their parenting outcomes. In particular, this needs to address the more disappointing outcomes of the current research study to improve attendance and engagement of all young parents in the program and especially the needs of young Indigenous parents.

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ID Code: 46954
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Berthelsen, Donna & Walker, Sue
Keywords: music therapy, group therapy, young parents, children, music therapists
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 10 Nov 2011 01:40
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2011 01:40

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