Music Therapy with Mothers and Young Children at a Unit for Child and Family Psychiatry: An Investigation

Amelia Oldfield, Lucy Bunce and Malcolm Adams

This project was made possible by two grants provided by the University.


This project aimed to investigate the role of music therapy for two different groups, a group of mothers and very young children on a parenting project and a mothers and toddlers group held at the Croft Unit for Child and Family Psychiatry. The music therapy groups were part of a package of treatment offered by the psychiatric service.

Three different groups were studied for the purpose of this investigation:

  • a mothers and toddlers group attending six play sessions followed by six music therapy sessions
  • a group of young mothers and young children from the parenting project who took part in the 'one-off', videotaped music therapy sessions followed by a review the following week, involving discussing the group with the mothers while watching the previous week's session on videotape
  • as a point of comparison, a group of children and their parents attending a series of six weekly music groups in a mainstream nursery

Information on these groups was gathered in a variety of ways. All the music therapy sessions and the play sessions were videotaped and the tapes were analysed using detailed behavioural observations to monitor progress towards achieving specific aims. Questionnaires were filled out by parents on a weekly basis. Audiotapes of the discussions between the parents and the therapists after each session have been analysed.

Results were positive and showed that aims and objectives initially set out for parents and children were achieved both in play sessions and in music therapy sessions. An interesting finding was that parents attending the Croft underestimated the behaviour of their children.

Information gathered from the questionnaires compared to results from the video analyses show that parents' memory of what their child has done in a session is frequently influenced by how they feel about their child and may not match up with the child's actual behaviour. This indicates how important it is to view and discuss videotapes of parents and children working together, with parents.