Background: The relationship between positive parent-child interactions and optimal child development is well established. Families with a child with a disability may face additional challenges to establishing positive parent-child relationships. There are limited studies addressing the effectiveness of interventions which seek to address these issues with parents and young children with a disability. In particular, prior studies of music therapy with this group have been limited by small sample sizes and the use of measures of limited reliability and validity.
Objective: This study investigates the effectiveness of a short-term group music therapy intervention for parents who have a child with a disability and explores the factors associated with higher outcomes for participating families.
Methods: The participants were 201 mother-child dyads, where the child had a disability. Pre and post intervention parental questionnaires and clinician observation measures were taken on a range of parental wellbeing, parenting behaviours and child developmental factors. Descriptive data, t-tests for repeated measures and a predictive model tested via logistic regression are presented.
Results: Significant improvements pre to post were found for parent mental health, child communication and social skills, parenting sensitivity, parental engagement with child and acceptance of child, child responsiveness to parent, and child interest and participation in program activities. There was also evidence that parents were very satisfied with the program and that it brought social benefits to families. Reliable change on six or more indicators of parent or child functioning was predicted by attendance and parent education.
Conclusions: This study provides positive evidence for the effectiveness of group music therapy in promoting improved parental mental health, positive parenting and key child developmental areas. Whilst several limitations are discussed, the study does address some of the gaps in the music therapy evidence base in this area.