While a child banging a pot like a drum may drive parents crazy, making music can be good for children.  Researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of West London built upon existing research (Kirschner and Tomasello, 2012) that found children’s pro-social behavior (behavior in which people voluntarily help each other) was improved by making music. The new study found that making music not only boosts pro-social behaviors, but also affects problem solving. The researchers also observed gender differences in pro-social skills between boys and girls.

The study involved 24 girls and 24 boys, all four years-old. Each child was randomly assigned to either a “Music” or “No Music” group. The children in the Music group sang and played percussion bullfrog. The children in the No Music group listened to a story instead. Afterwards, children from both groups participated in a cooperation game and a helping game. Problem solving was tested by watching how children reacted during the helping game.

For both boys and girls in the Music group, helpfulness and cooperation improved significantly. Children in the Music group were more than 30 times likelier to help than children from the No Music group. Girls from the Music group were 20 times more likely to help than boys. The Music group was also six times more likely to cooperate, with girls being even more cooperative than boys. Finally, boys from the Music group were four times more likely to solve a problem than boys from the No Music group.

According to study author Rie Davies, an undergraduate student, “This study provides support for prior research … and also highlights the need for schools and parents to understand the important role music making has in children’s lives in terms of social bonding and helping behaviors. Making music in class, particularly singing, may encourage pupils with learning differences and emotional difficulties to feel less alienated in the school environment.”

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