Study: Music Education Benefits Adolescents’ Wellbeing
- By Kate Lucariello
study published in January 2023 by the University
of Southern California (USC) in the journal “Frontiers
in Psychology” on the impact of music education
showed that middle school students gained not only cognitive
benefits, but a greater sense of wellbeing in the five key areas of
Youth Development (PYD). The study’s findings come
at a time when California voters have recently approved Proposition
28, to increase funding for arts and music education in the state’s
study, conducted by Beatriz
Ilari, associate professor of music education at the
USC Thornton School of Music, and Eun Cho of Haskins Laboratories at
Yale University, focused primarily on students participating in the
Play Foundation’s Virtual Middle School Music Enrichment (VMSME)
program. The program is designed specifically as an
accessible extracurricular music program in response to the pandemic.
The 120 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students in the final
analysis came from 52 different middle schools from multiple
neighborhoods in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Most
students (98%) were involved in one or more musical activities in or
out of school, with most practicing their instruments daily.
were provided with musical instruments, access to the Fender Play
learning app, and group online music lessons with credentialed
teachers, all free of charge. Participants played a variety of
instruments, with plucked string instruments predominating.
study looked at the “five Cs,” key areas of PYD: competence,
confidence, connection, character, and caring/compassion. It also
connectedness (SC) and hopeful
future expectations (HFE).
the PYD’s five-point scale (1 = not all; 5 = very true), students
responded to statements in each of the areas and showed the following
scores: competence, 3.52; confidence, 3.83; character, 4.2;
caring/compassion, 4.38; and connection, 3.98. Gender differences
showed more males scored higher in competence and confidence, and
females higher in character and caring/compassion. Those who
identified as non-binary and preferred not to answer scored lower
than females on overall PYD and connection, and lower than males on
confidence and connection. The authors feel this is a significant
finding and urge that “future research using PYD as a framework
move beyond the gender binary. Findings from these studies will not
only contribute to our understanding of PYD in adolescence, but will
also inform the development of programs and policy for all young
authors found that students who participated in multiple kinds of
music education for a long time scored “high on competence … and
on HFE. Participation in extracurricular activities in schools and
liking music also predicted students’ SC.” Their findings also
aligned with other studies showing that music programs fostered
adolescents working through emotional and identity issues, helping
them to develop positive views of themselves and the future.
the research article’s page in “Frontiers in Psychology” to
read the full study.
Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.