Music Therapy in Promoting Mutually Responsive Parent-Child Relationships

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      Pasiali, V. (2012). Supporting parent-child interactions: Music therapy as an intervention for promoting mutually responsive orientation. Journal of Music Therapy, 49(3), 303-334.

      Background: Music therapists working with families address relationship and interpersonal communication issues. Few controlled studies exist in the literature but a growing body of documented practice is emerging. This study makes a contribution by documenting how music therapy supports mutuality and reciprocity in parent-child interactions. Objective: This study investigated mutually responsive orientation (MRO) behaviors of young children (aged 3-5) and their family members during music therapy. Methods: Participants were 4 families with low income and history of maternal depression as common risk factors. Data were collected by videotaping sessions, creating field notes and analytic memos, conducting parent interviews and reviewing parent journals. A cross-case analysis using MRO theory as a conceptualizing framework was used for the purpose of data reduction. Results: Greeting and farewell rituals, and the flexibility of music-based therapeutic applications facilitated development of coordinated routines. Therapist’s actions (e.g., encouraging and modeling musical interactions) and bidirectional parent-child actions (e.g., joint attention, turn-taking, being playful) facilitated harmonious communication. Behaviors promoting mutual cooperation were evident when adults attempted to scaffold a child’s participation or when children sought comfort from parents, engaged in social referencing and made requests that shaped the direction of the session. The novelty of musical tasks captivated attention, increasing impulse inhibition. Parent actions (e.g., finding delight in watching their child participate, acting silly) and parent-child interactions (e.g., play exploration, shared excitement, cuddling) contributed to positive emotional ambiance. Conclusion: Music therapy assisted development of MRO within parent-child dyads by providing opportunities to rehearse adaptive ways of connecting with each other. Results of this study may serve as an archetypal model guiding clinical treatment planning.

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