The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people

From International Journal of Music Education

Recent advances in the study of the brain have enabled us to get a better understanding of the way that active engagement with music may influence other development.  This paper considers the effects of music on intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. It outlines how extensive active engagement with music can induce cortical reorganization. This may produce functional changes in how the brain processes information. Processing of pitch in string players is characterized by longer surveillance and more frontally distributed event-related brain potentials attention. Drummers generate more complex memory traces of the temporal organization of musical sequences. Compared with non-musicians, string players have greater somatosensory representa­tions of finger activity, the amount of increase depending on the age of starting to play. Clearly, the brain develops in very specific ways in response to particular learning activities and the extent of change depends on the length of time engaged with learning. The extent of musical engagement and its nature will be a factor in the extent to which transfer can occur to other areas. This overview provides a strong case for the benefits of active engagement with music throughout the lifespan.

Abstract

This paper reviews the empirical evidence relating to the effects of active engagement with music on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. It draws on research using the most advanced technologies to study the brain, in addition to quantitative and qualitative psychological and educational studies. It explains how musical skills may transfer to other activities if the processes involved are similar. It explores the evidence relating to the impact of musical skills on language development, literacy, numeracy, measures of intelligence, general attainment, creativity, fine motor co-ordination, concentration, self-confidence, emotional sensitivity, social skills, team work, self-discipline, and relaxation. It suggests that the positive effects of engagement with music on personal and social development only occur if it is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. This has implications for the quality of the teaching.

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Article details
Susan Hallam (2012). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people International Journal of, 28 (3) : 10.1177/0255761410370658

     
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