Literature Review of Early Childhood Music Therapy Between 1990-2012


  • Kirsi Maaria Tuomi University of Jyväskylä Anglia Ruskin University
  • Esa Ala-Ruona University of Jyväskylä
  • Amelia Oldfield Anglia Ruskin University



music therapy, young children, early childhood, literature review


The article examines music therapy literature from 1990 to 2012 focusing on children aged 0 to 5-years old. The literature includes clinical descriptions, research articles, chapters in books, peer reviewed electronic publications, and peer reviewed journals. Altogether 125 different texts were found which fulfilled the criteria for inclusion. Simple quantitative analysis gave guidelines for deeper, comparative qualitative analysis. According to the data the older children were more often written about than younger children. Historically the dominance from individual work has been shifting to dyadic/family work. The active methods were most commonly singing and playing with instruments. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were most strongly represented together with paediatric patients and children with developmental disabilities. Interaction between family members and the positive factors were emphasized in the articles. The importance of fun and enjoyment was underlined throughout all client groups. The results claim that more specific information of the effects of early childhood music therapy is needed. In addition, related areas of research, cross-scientific viewpoints, and common fields of interests should be taken into consideration in the future.

Author Biographies

Kirsi Maaria Tuomi, University of Jyväskylä Anglia Ruskin University

Kirsi Tuomi, MPh, is a music-, Theraplay- and DDP-therapist and a licenced supervisor working at her private clinic. Her clients are mostly foster and adoptive children and adolescents, and the focus is on working with the families and attachment issues. The clinical supervision actualizes mostly with the child protection professionals and foster carers. She gives lectures and workshops regularly on basic, advanced, and professional levels for music therapy students in Finland. She has presented her work in several national and international conferences and with a colleague she developed a national training program of family work for music therapists. She is a past executive manager and president of the Finnish Society for Music Therapy. This article is part of her PhD studies at the University of Jyväskylä.

Esa Ala-Ruona, University of Jyväskylä

Esa Ala-Ruona, PhD, is a music therapist and psychotherapist working as a senior researcher at the Music Therapy Clinic for Research and Training, at University of Jyväskylä. He has more than 25 years of experience in working within psychiatry and neurology. His research interests are music therapy assessment and evaluation, and in studying musical interaction and clinical processes in improvisational psychodynamic music therapy, and furthermore the progress and outcomes of rehabilitation of stroke patients in active music therapy. Currently he is the president of the European Music Therapy Confederation. He regularly gives lectures and workshops on music therapy both nationally and internationally.

Amelia Oldfield, Anglia Ruskin University

Professor Amelia Oldfield has worked as a music therapist with children and their families for over 36 years. She currently works as a clinician in Child and Family Psychiatry and lectures at Anglia Ruskin University where she set up the MA Music Therapy Training with a colleague in 1994. She has completed four music therapy research investigations and has been a consultant on two recent large music therapy randomised control research trials.  She has presented papers, taught, and run workshops at conferences and universities all over the world. She has published seven books and written many articles in peer-reviewed journals and books. She has also produced six training videos.



How to Cite

Tuomi, K. M., Ala-Ruona, E., & Oldfield, A. (2017). Literature Review of Early Childhood Music Therapy Between 1990-2012. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 17(2).