Literature Review of Early Childhood Music Therapy Between 1990-2012
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.
Date received: 21 July 2016
Date accepted: 20 May 2017
Publication date: 1 July 2017
Early childhood is undoubtedly the phase of life when the basics of many developmental cornerstones are laid. The impact of the early years for the later life is undisputed (Leckman & March, 2011; Roth & Sweatt, 2011; Schore, 1994; 2014). When the development of the child is somehow atypical or at risk, it is logical that early interventions are more effective, even in terms of funding than later interventions – to put it simply: the earlier the intervention is made, the less entrenched the difficulties that will need treatment will be (Golos et al., 2011; Hayes et al., 2014; Peters-Scheffera et al., 2012; Reynolds et al., 2011; Santelices et al., 2011).
Infant, toddler, pre-schooler, and early childhood may refer to children of different ages. This might be because of cultural differences but also the lack of strict definitions. Definitions of the age of an infant varies from 0-12 months (Medicinenet.com) to just “a very young child or baby” (English Oxford Living Dictionaries). Toddler is described as a young child who is learning to walk (Medicinenet.com; English Oxford Living Dictionaries). Infant and toddler may in some cases be used as synonyms (Gilliam & Mayes, 2005; Shonkoff et al., 2005), as well as toddler and preschooler (Egger, 2009). In addition, children start school at different ages and childcare arrangements may vary greatly from one country to another, which may impact the terminology used.
“Early childhood music therapy” is a relatively new phrase. Schwartz referred to children aged 0-5 when writing about music, therapy, and early childhood (Schwarz, 2008) and the same age group was brought up by Kern and Humpal (2012) in their book Early Childhood Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders. This terminology has its place in the same way as: “early childhood education” and “early childhood music education,” for example. Also, the first international publication from this field is called Imagine – online Magazine of Early Childhood Music Therapy (http://imagine.musictherapy.biz/Imagine/home.html). In the present article, the authors will use the terminology early childhood music therapy to refer music therapy with children from birth to age 5.
When the target is to improve clinical efficacy and inform future research guidelines, the concept of understanding the phenomena is important (Dileo, 2005; Randolph, 2009). Understanding the nature of early childhood music therapy is possible by exploring the literature that represents developments in the field worldwide. The review undertaken for this paper focuses on how an early childhood music therapy intervention has been applied and how this practice is carried out (Randolph, 2009). In addition, its aim is to refine and conceptualize the field and simultaneously identify gaps in the literature (Dileo, 2005). According to the writers’ knowledge, no such research has been accomplished before. The article is a part of the first author´s doctoral study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University, UK. The intention has been to analyse the literature as objectively as possible with the understanding that the authors´ music therapy background, experience, education, and philosophical outlooks will influence the interpretations made.
Data and prerequisites for the data
This review was intended to be a descriptive, not a systematic review. However, it was a detailed and careful study of existing resources, which the authors believe will be of value to other music therapists. As Aveyard (2010) pointed out such a review can be conducted in a systematic manner even if the detail required for systematic reviews was not attained.
The data included was broad, versatile, and diverse. The researchers were interested in the early childhood music therapy field as a whole, including theory, practice, and research studies. Case studies written by music therapists were included as well as general descriptions of music therapists’ clinical approaches. At a further stage of analysis, the texts were divided up into different categories so it is possible to see which articles were research based. The different categories used will be clearly defined when that data is presented.
Included texts present clinical early childhood music therapy work and early childhood music therapy research in any or all the following: books, peer reviewed electronic publications, and peer reviewed journals from 1990 to 2012. Literature was limited to accessible publications in the English language. The following publications were included in the systematic search: Music Therapy, Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives, Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, British Journal of Music Therapy, and Australian Journal of Music Therapy (online availability from year 2005 from which the articles included). In addition, CDROMS Music Therapy Today and Music Therapy World were searched through. Articles published elsewhere were searched with different keywords defining early childhood music therapy such as music therapy + early childhood / small children / young children / early intervention. This search was concluded with multidisciplinary searches in electronic databases including different medical and psychiatric databases (for example PsychInfo and PubMed). The books and book chapters were searched manually in the libraries of the same universities. Reference lists in the papers were searched to find additional texts.
In several cases the line between music therapy, music education, cognitive music research, psychology of music, and different supportive music approaches was challenging to draw. The aim of the research was to focus specifically on music therapy. For the purposes of this review music therapy is defined as “a systematic process of intervention wherein the therapist helps the client to promote health, using music experiences and the relationships that develop through them as dynamic forces of change” (Bruscia, 1998, p. 20). In addition to Bruscia´s definition the interactional dimension of music therapy was stressed. Music therapy is understood as a process where attunement to the client is possible by adapting to the present moment and the needs of the client (Oldfield, 2006, 2017; Stern, 2010; Tuomi, 2017). Because of the strict definition, some excellent approaches and research papers (Cassidy & Ditty 2001; Kern 2006; Lim 2010) were excluded.
Criteria for inclusion were:
The article was published for the first time between 1990–2012;
The definition of music therapy as understood above was fulfilled;
Music therapy as such was mentioned in the article either in titles, abstract, or text;
At least one of the cases concerned children under 6 years of age; and
Clinical music therapy could be detected in some way within this age group
Criteria for exclusion were:
Theses and dissertations;
Review articles and duplicates; and
Theoretical articles, which did not include any clinical examples.
In the case of edited books, each chapter was treated independently. If one author had written the entire book it was identified as one whole.
Premature infants and music therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are not included in this article. When collecting data, it was soon revealed that this was a clinical field in its own right. In addition, an integrative review of music therapy conducted with premature infants was already published (Haslbeck, 2012) and also a meta-analysis of NICU music therapy (Standley, 2012).
Early childhood music therapy literature from 1990 to 2012 was sourced and examined. The authors focused on how these texts described music therapy interventions and how music therapy services and interactions in sessions occurred. The analysis is further described below.
In total, 125 articles, books, and book chapters were found. The titles and details of each publication was entered Excel to create an annotated bibliography of the whole data. Initially obvious categories such as the name of the author, year of the publication, name of the publication and the genre of the text, for example research or clinical description, were included. When the analysis proceeded the number of categories increased and categories such as the age of children, the names of clinical population, for example child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), patients in hospice, at-risk families, and the type of therapy context, for example individual, group, family, were added. Later it became clear that more categories such as the amount of cases and a historical viewpoint would improve the detail provided. The preliminary categories were therefore specified during the process as were the excluding and including attributes. For each article the following data was included in the Excel table in a separate column (Table 1).
Table 1. An example of data in Excel table
Simple analysis of the bibliography including detailing how many texts were about individual music therapy, how many were accomplished with 4-year-old children, how many of them addressed music therapy with ASD children, and these details prompted guidelines for further qualitative analysis.
Descriptive analysis of the effects of music therapy was accomplished with the help of mind-map techniques in CMapTools (CMap, 2017). Preliminary categories were formed on the bases of the writers´ clinical expertise. All texts were read through by analysing the content and categorized first under preliminary categories. The categories developed and expanded while new findings emerged. Several subcategories were developed and careful notes were made. Different categories were sorted again by combining and developing division of the categories. The tables were made to help gain deeper insight (Galvan, 2009).
In many cases the articles belonged to several different categories at once. When these overlaps were revealed the articles were listed as many times as required, twice or even more. This applied to both quantitative and qualitative analysis.
When interpreting the tables in the results section the authors make an assumption that the amount of texts published corresponds to some degree with the amount of clinical work occurring in the text. The authors are aware that there might be instances where this assumption is incorrect.
Age of children and type of therapy
When looking at the data from the perspective of age distribution it seems that the line is rising (Figure 1). Apart from infants under 1 year, the data reveals that there are more articles the older the children are.
One-year-old children were a minority age group in the music therapy literature. The difference between written texts between 1 and 5-year-old children was 39 texts, which is quite a lot when examining all the data.
The same tendency seems to be present when viewing the research data (Figure 2). There is clearly less research with toddlers from 0 to 2 years old than with children of 5 years of age.
The type of therapy was divided into three: individual, group, and dyadic/family work. Dyadic work was defined as work where the music therapist worked with the child and a carer. Often the carer would have been the parent but it also could have been a relative, a foster carer, a nursery nurse, or a member of care staff. As can be seen in Figure 3 it seems that the amount of individual and dyadic/family work is almost equal.
Each category is not completely separate from the other, as group work sometimes overlaps with dyadic/family work, because the groups could be for individual children and also for dyads or families. In addition, in numerous cases the same text introduces several different types of therapy. As a result, some texts are included several times in the data analysis.
When looking at research data the results seem to be somewhat different (Figure 4). The differences between types of work are smaller and group work seems to be researched most often.
Sing&Grow (Williams & Abad, 2005) was founded in Australia. It is a group based 10-week program aimed at families with young children. The program was funded for 2 years initially and then the funding was extended. In the findings of this review five Sing&Grow research papers were included (Abad, 2007; Abad & Williams, 2006; Nicholson et al., 2010; Nicholson et al., 2008; Williams et al., 2012) and one clinical evaluative paper (Williams & Abad, 2005). These have affected especially the analysis results of research articles. If the Sing&Grow papers would had been excluded from the data the amount of research texts would have been quite close to each other when comparing individual and group work. On the other hand, the family work would had been rated lower.
It was interesting to find out if the age of child had had an influence on whether work was carried out individually, in a group, or with the family. The analysis showed (Figure 5) that during the first year including the carer in therapy was almost as common as it was with 5-year-old children. Though, there were 17 articles describing individual music therapy for babies. When different types of therapy were quite the same in children with 3 years of age, the individual music therapy was clearly the most common therapy type with 5-year-old children. Again, it must be pointed out that group work was conducted with families as well as with individual children.
The number of early childhood music therapy articles increased annually between 1990 and 2012. The time brackets analysed were either 5 or 6 years long except for the last one, which was only 2 years long because that was when the data gathering stopped. This somewhat affects conclusions made. Between 1990 and 1995, 18 articles were found whereas between 2006 and 2010, 43 articles were found. Between 2011 and 2012, 40 articles were found.
When having a closer look at historical viewpoints and types of music therapy (individual, group, and family) mentioned during these 22 years it seems there have been changes not only in the amount of texts but also in the types of therapy presented. In Figure 6 it can be seen that individual work was dominant from 1990 to 1995 and between 2001 and 2005. Since then, group work and family work have been more prevalent, and during 2011 and 2012 it seems that dyadic/family approaches have been the area most written about.
Music Therapy techniques used in therapy
The data was divided into active, receptive, and active-receptive categories. Nine texts could not be included because the relevant information was not in the text. For the rest of the material (116 texts) the analysis revealed that active methods were most common. Seventy-five percent reported using singing, playing, improvising, or other kinds of active methods. Twenty-two percent of texts described using both active and receptive methods and only three percent used solely listening and other receptive methods.
In Figure 7 it can be seen that singing was used in over 90 percent of the data detected. Playing with instruments was also very commonly used. Only a little over half of the texts mentioned using improvisation.
There were some difficulties when categorizing the client groups in the data. It seemed that the categories could be grouped in many ways and the categorizing system was different in different parts of the world. For example, ASD could be seen under communication disorders as well as under developmental delays while developmental delays and learning disabilities could be seen as the same category.
The categories were finally developed after sorting out and analysing the data by following the definitions of the writers. The following categories were decided upon: ASD, developmental delays, paediatric patients, preventive approaches, psychiatric disorders, communication disorders, hospice patients, learning difficulties, attachment issues, sensory impairment, and parenting issues. However, it should be pointed out that because of geographical divergence the terms might be presented differently in different texts. Due to this fact, there may be overlaps among categories and therefore categorizing should be seen as a rough idea rather than a definite grouping.
When looking at the client groups in Figure 8, it reveals that children with ASD are most strongly represented. When adding clients from paediatrics it seems that these client groups cover a little over half of the whole data. Children with developmental disabilities and delays and preventive music therapy approaches were quite well represented, whereas the psychiatric field and children with communication disorders were in the minority. Few texts referred to hospice clients, learning difficulties, sensory impairments, parenting, and attachment issues which can be found later in Table 1.
When looking at the different client groups in the research data (Figure 9), the same tendency can be detected. Developmental disorders and delays together with ASD are the most common client groups followed by preventive treatment and paediatric clients.
In the following table (Table 2) the texts are categorized by their client groups. Again, the selected categorizing might affect the results but gives guidelines for readers to find adequate references for their purposes.
Table 2. References categorized by client groups
Effects of music therapy
When analysing the data from the viewpoint of reported effects of music therapy, authors mentioned effects in four different areas: a) social areas, b) emotional areas, c) physical and academic skill areas, and d) other areas. Effects in social and emotional areas were written about most, whereas physical and academic skill areas were mentioned less often.
When analysing social areas, the following subcategories emerged:
Table 3. Social areas
The amount of the prominent themes defined the order of listed subcategories. This means that interaction within families was pointed out most often. In the same table, it can be seen that interactions between family members were emphasized and parenting skills were also quite well represented. Conversely, supporting attachment was mentioned in only four texts and research in this field was completely lacking. Similarly, affect attunement was focused on in only one text (Levinge, 2011) even though it is known that attunement and synchronicity are crucial for well-functioning interaction.
Increased intentions and initiatives, engagement as well as turn-taking and reciprocity emerged quite strongly from the data. Non-verbal interaction was only mentioned in a few texts (Kim et al., 2008; Levinge, 2011; Oldfield, 2011; Skewes & Thompson, 1998).
General social behavior, including decreased problem behavior, decreased stereotypic behaviour, and acceptance of differences, was also in the minority when examining the effects of music therapy.
In conclusion, it seems that interaction in this data was described in a general way rather than in a more detailed way. It is mentioned that music therapy helps, supports, and creates interactions but more exact information was often not clearly forthcoming.
The analysis of data relating to emotions revealed four subcategories:
Table 4. Emotional areas
According to this data it seems that early childhood music therapy literature emphasizes the positive factors of music therapy. The importance of fun and enjoyment was underlined throughout all client groups.
Except for preventative interventions the target of music therapy is often to reduce symptoms whatever those symptoms with different client groups are. In this data, this area was clearly taken into account in only one research publication (Gold et al., 2001). Also, very specific areas like emotional synchronicity were rarely mentioned (Kim et al., 2009) and the texts remained commonly on a more general level.
Expressive and regulating qualities of music therapy were quite well represented. Both areas are important for the development of the child and regulation problems often emerge within the population of young children with difficulties. Regulation of emotions was mentioned primarily with pediatric patients (Aldridge, 1993; Ayson, 2008; Barrera, Rykov & Doyle, 2002; Hadley, 1996; Loewy, 2004) while with children with ASD it was mentioned in two cases (Berger, 2002; Lecourt, 1991), within the psychiatric field twice (Brackley, 2012; Hong et al., 1998) as well and in hospice settings (Lindenfelser et al., 2008; Lindenfelser et al., 2012).
Physical and academic skill areas were visible in only a relatively small amount of papers. For this reason, both of these areas, with 14 and 11 texts, were put together under the same category heading.
Table 5. Physical and cognitive areas
|Physical / cognitive areas||Definition||References|
|Physical and motor areas (14 different texts)|
|Cognitive areas (11 different texts)|
Motor abilities and language development were the largest subcategories in these areas. Motor skills were emphasized especially with children with developmental delays (Bruce & High, 2012; Duffy & Fuller, 2000; Wylie, 1996) while effects of music therapy in language development were emphasized with children with ASD and children with communication disorders (Gross, Linden & Ostermann, 2010; Guerrero & Turry, 2012; Lim, 2012; Lim & Draper, 2011).
Many of these subcategories were mentioned only once. There was only one paper written from a neurological viewpoint (Shoemark, 2004). Problems with eating were also mentioned only once (Dellatan, 2003). Language development and learning competences were more frequently written about but pre-writing and -reading competences were in the minority (Register, 2001; Standley & Hughes, 1997) as well as pain relief (Edwards, 1994; Sweeney-Brown, 2005).
These are the effects of early childhood music therapy, which did not fit into previous categories.
Table 6. Other areas
|Assessment (5 different texts)|
|Other dimensions (4)|
Assessment is an important part of therapy when setting goals for a process. There were five papers referring to this matter within this age group. Focus on this material was on experiences where music therapy could have provided some kind of information, which was not revealed through other assessment tools.
A very different kind of approach was introduced in two papers where the cost-effectiveness was the focus (Loewy et al., 2005; Walworth, 2005). Both researches examined the cost-effectiveness of music therapy in the pediatric healthcare setting aiming to reduce the amount of sedation for patients undergoing various procedures. This kind of research is rare within the music therapy field but might be one-direction researchers will be encouraged to take in the future.
In this section, the authors reflect on several aspects, which they found particularly interesting. This section is mainly descriptive rather than analytical and it is not part of the more structured analysis.
Music Therapy in Children´s Hospices (Pavlicevic, 2005) is currently the only book in the field of music therapy in palliative care with children. Music therapy with children and their families (Oldfield & Flower, 2008) has been an important opening for future development of family work. The same applies to Edwards’ book (2011), which focuses on the use of music therapy in promoting attachment across community, medical, and school based contexts. Music therapy in schools - working with children of all ages in mainstream and special education (Tomplinson et al., 2012) is an opening to the school world where small children and their carers are taken into consideration. Early childhood music therapy and autism spectrum disorders (Kern & Humpal, 2012) is relevant for this research because of its specific topic.
Large number of participants
There were several papers, which included a large amount of research participants, defined for the purposes of this review as 50 or more cases. In music therapy research in general, large numbers are the exception rather than the rule. In this study, there seem to be several papers with a large number of participants. This was particularly evident in the Sing&Grow reports (Abad, 2007; Abad & Williams, 2006; Nicholson et al., 2010; Nicholson et al., 2008; Williams et al., 2012). Participants numbers were 850 (Nicholsson et al., 2010) and 635 families (Abad, 2007) per paper. Other program or curriculum based interventions also seemed to have numerous participants. A preventive intervention The Music Together Program (MacKenzie & Hamlett, 2005) gathered information from 140 families. Another preventive program offered in schools was with 80 dyads participating a family-based music therapy program (Kelly, 2011). Eighty-six kindergarten children participated in a music therapy program designed to teach reading skills (Register, 2004) and 50 children participated in a research project where music therapy was designed to enhance prereading and writing skills (Register, 2001).
Previously introduced researches into cost-effectiveness (Loewy et al., 2005; Walworth, 2005) also included many participants. Walworth´s study included 166 patients between 6 months and 13 years and Loewy´s 60 patients from 1 month through 5 years of age. A pilot study explored the effectiveness of interactive music therapy of hospitalized children with cancer (Barrera et al., 2002). Sixty-five children participated, of which 33 were 0-5 years of age. Seventy infants under 2 years and their parents were examined regarding responsiveness and infant social development (Walworth, 2009). Hospitalized children´s mood was tested in an investigation where 60 children from 13 months to 12 years participated (Hendon & Bohon, 2007).
Typically, the papers that included a large number of participants seemed to describe quite a structured way of working. These papers often evaluated programs and curriculums, usually with groups. Music therapy was often a short-term intervention. Different questionnaires were often used as well as observational notes. This was understandable and often necessary given the large amount of data involved. However, this means that the data can often not be analysed in depth and in many cases the why questions remain unresolved. Generalizations can be made but specific information might be lacking. The meaning of such papers is important in situations where the benefits of music therapy need to become visible and convince the policymakers.
Length of music therapy processes
The sources revealed that early childhood music therapy is commonly accomplished as a short-term intervention with few services being provided for longer than a year. Only 10 papers were identified which mentioned that music therapy lasted at least a year. However, this information was not available in every paper.
The longest therapy processes mentioned lasted 4 or 5 years (Horvat & O´Neill, 2008; Warnock, 2011). Mostly longer work lasted 1 to 2 years (Brown, 2002; Bunt, 2002; Dun, 2007; Hong et al., 1998; Lecourt, 1991; Levinge, 1990; Oldfield, 2006; Shoemark, 1996; Trevarthen et al., 1998). Interestingly all of these papers were written before 2008. This result might be linked to the previous finding, which showed that individual music therapy was dominant at the same time. All the long-term work was individual or dyadic/family work.
The main aim of this paper was to conduct an overview of the early childhood music therapy literature. The authors wanted to get a picture of the field worldwide an idea of groupings within the subject area and find possible trends but also gaps in literature. In addition, the target was to conceptualize the field, provide a context, and define a history of what has been done.
Reflection on most important findings
Based on the data analysis (both overall analysis and the analysis of the research data) the results showed that older children were more often written about. Once again based on the assumption that the amount of literature reflects clinical trends, the authors suggest that older children might be more likely to receive music therapy treatment than younger children. Although the exclusion of music therapy in neonatal care and with premature infants has affected the results. Also, it is possible that children under 2 years are not so often referred to music therapy because of the lack of necessary evaluation and diagnosis in such a young age.
According to the results, including the carer in therapy during the first year was almost as common as it was with 5-year-old children. Different types of therapy were quite the same in children with 3 years of age and individual music therapy was the most common therapy type with 5-year-old children.
Historically it seems that during the last 22 years there have been changes not only in amount of texts but also on the types of therapy presented. The dominance from individual work has been shifting to family/dyadic work. Conclusions might be that music therapy has grown as a profession and publishing both research and clinical material has increased. Also, there is a possibility that the interest in clinical practice has been changing somewhat in favour of small children.
The edited books undoubtedly affected the results. There were three books published in 2011-2012 (Edwards, 2011; Kern & Humpal, 2012; Tomlinson et al., 2012) of which 18 chapters matched the criteria for this research. The dominance of individual work between 2001 and 2005 cannot clearly be explained. Again there were edited books (Bunt & Hoskyns, 2002; Pavlicevic, 2005) affecting the data but not so obviously as mentioned earlier. It could be that during those years the awareness of music therapy with small children increased, resulting in more writing on the subject.
Some of the differences in types of therapy changing across the targeted time span could be related to legal and regulatory options for service for young children. In the United States, focus for treatment moved significantly from individual, clinic based work to family and group based work due to changing emphasis under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In Australia, the funding for Sing&Grow could be seen as a driving force in the changing types of practice.
Looking at types of intervention, active methods were most common with singing and playing with instruments the most prevalent. Only 66 texts (from 116 texts) reported using improvisation. This could be partly because the texts did not articulate details like this clearly enough. Also, music therapy programs or group work (Aldridge, 1993; Edwards et al., 2007; Nicholson et al., 2010), which might be well structured and planned in advance seemed not to use improvisation as much as other kinds of approaches. In addition, strict research design might have limited the use of different methods (i.e. Elefant & Wigram, 2005; Finnigan & Starr, 2010; Lim & Draper, 2011).
Despite the difficulties of categorizing client groups, it seemed that children with ASD were most strongly represented together with paediatric patients and children with developmental disabilities. Preventive music therapy approaches were well represented, whereas the services for children with mental disorders and children with communication disorders were smaller in number.
This research could not evaluate different music therapy approaches in a systematic way because many writers did not name or describe their exact approach. However, when looking at those authors’ texts who mentioned some aspects, it would appear that psychodynamic approaches were in the minority and the focus when carrying out early childhood music therapy was usually on creative and improvisational music therapy. This could explain why the concepts of reflective function, mentalization, and parent´s representations were absent, even though these issues are currently an important focus for early interaction research worldwide (Fonagy, 2012; Pajulo et al., 2012; Philipp, 2012; Solbakken et al., 2011).
When analysing the data from the viewpoint of reported effects of music therapy (see tables 3,4,5,6), authors mentioned positive effects in four different areas: a) social areas, b) emotional areas, c) physical and academic skill areas, and d) other areas. Motor skills were emphasized especially with children with developmental delays, though only in a few papers, and only one text took a neurological viewpoint.
Interactions among family members were emphasized, and parenting skills were also quite well represented. Increased intentions and initiatives, engagement as well as turn-taking and reciprocity emerged quite strongly from the data. It was somewhat surprising that non-verbal interaction was only mentioned in a few texts. The authors’ assumption had been that within the population of 0 to 5-year-old children it would have been more emphasized. According to this data it also appeared that countertransference was not commonly mentioned or focused on in the texts.
Decreased problem behavior, decreased stereotypic behaviour, and acceptance of differences, was in the minority when examining the effects of music therapy. One could assume that problems within this area are not so big in this age group. Also, it might be a matter of research design and targets, as research designs might not often identify measures where decreases of behavior could be detected.
Early childhood music therapy literature emphasized the positive factors. The importance of fun and enjoyment was underlined throughout all client groups. Resilience is currently a subject, which is frequently mentioned in the literature concerning children and families (Papousek, 2011; Pasiali, 2012a; Pearce, 2011; Sawyer & Burton, 2012). Both from the viewpoints of humanity and economy, it seems it would be beneficial to focus on the strengths of clients. In this data, six articles (Darnley-Smith & Patey, 2003; Dun, 1995; Dun, 1999; Irgens-Moller, 1999; O´Callaghan & Jordan, 2011; Shoemark, 2004) wrote about resources and resilience as well as about feelings of mastery.
Specific features of the research data were investigated only in high impact research publications. The freer the framework of writing was, the more general were the conclusions.
Collecting data with such a broad inclusion criteria was very demanding and constituted a limitation to this investigation. Despite the systematic approach, it is still possible there are papers which met the criteria for inclusion but were not included in the research. On the other hand, the quite strict definition of music therapy limited the data and left some research papers out. However, the amount of data was substantive and it is reasonable to assume that single additional texts would not have impacted the overall results.
The quality of the research also suffered because of the large amount of texts. The controlled experiments and quantifiable data were not in focus, and the “critical reading” (Aveyard, 2010; Randolph 2009) was not carried out in this research. Because of the large amount of texts, the analysis was carried out more superficially than with a strictly selected, small amount of data. The qualitative data in particular, could have been analysed in a much more detailed and deeper way if the data had been less extensive.
The categorizing in this research has its limits because of overlaps between different categories (i.e. group work could be either for individual children but also for dyads or families). Also, geographical divergence of the terms and the classification regarding the clinical population has had an influence on the analysis and results. Though an objective standpoint was tried to be maintained, the authors´ own backgrounds, experiences, and standpoints have with some extent influenced the interpretations. The research would look different if the authors would have been different.
Despite the limitations of this research, the authors believe it gives an overall idea of early childhood music therapy practice and how this praxis is accomplished. It gives us guidelines of early childhood music therapy practice and a means of accomplishing it. It gives us guidelines of what kind of client groups early childhood music therapy takes place with and what the effects of this intervention are seen to be. We also gain an understanding of gaps in the literature, what is missing, and which area it would be beneficial to consider in more depth.
Guidelines for future
There are some issues for the future, which should be pointed out. From the researcher´s perspective it would be important that articles, both clinical and research articles, included precise information about a) the age of the target group (for example: ”preschool”/”kindergarten student”/”school age” referring to different age groups in different countries), b) the definition of the intervention (for example: education or therapy), c) type of work (who was present in sessions), d) duration and frequency of therapy (how many times per week, how long the sessions lasted, how many sessions all together), e) methods used. In addition, the framework of therapy and the therapist (i.e. psychotherapeutic, creative or improvisational music therapy) would be important to define. All this information should be easy to find and the structure of the article should be logical. Ideally this information should be available in the abstract of the article.
Within the context of early childhood music therapy, children from birth to 2 years of age seemed to be in the minority. Research in the fields of communication disorders and psychiatric care were low incidence and hospice care, sensory impairment, and parenting issues minimal. The research from field of attachment was missing completely. The authors suggest these areas to be researched more and written about in future. Long-term processes were in a minority and deeper information was often lacking. It was decided, for the sake of simplicity, not to distinguish between group work for individual children and group work with families. In retrospect, this might have been useful to look at in more detail and is a recommendation for future research.
More specific information is needed. In this data, the interactional and the emotional areas were described in a general way (i.e. music therapy helps, supports, and creates interaction), but more exact information was mostly not forthcoming. The profession needs more detailed knowledge, which is something for future researchers to consider. In addition, related areas of research, cross-scientific viewpoints and common fields of interests could be taken into consideration. The current world effectiveness should also be examined as well as the effects of music therapy in everyday life.
Early childhood music therapy is a multifaceted field with different client groups, types of work, approaches, and areas of emphasis. General trends have been determined, maybe it is now time to investigate deeper and in a more focused way considering our clients, our profession, and our funders.
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