Does music participation teach sharing?

Did you know there are many types of sharing? When you stop and think about it, there are many ways we can share a toy or food, but most of the time, as parents or educators, we would say something like “let’s just be nice and share.”

There is a whole field of research known as “sharing research”, but it usually goes by the term prosocial behaviour research. It explores topics such as when and how do we learn to share, what makes us more likely to want to share, and under what circumstances do sharing behaviours stop. Music learning has been a fantastic tool to study these traits in humans because it has been found that singing and moving together seem to encourage prosocial behaviours in children as young as 14 months of age.

This particular study takes things one step further to see if music learning through participation in early childhood music classes in preschool, in comparison to in-home music participation, did improve sharing skills. The specific sharing skills they were looking at were instrumental helping and sharing, which is defined as assisting another in achieving an action-based goal such as searching for or getting something out of reach, appears by 12 – 14 months of age.

The researchers found that the students who were in the preschool music programs scored higher on both instrumental helping and sharing than the in-home music participation students. Interestingly, the scores for helping were higher than those for sharing. This means preschool based music program students were more likely to share but not as likely to help. The researchers believe this may because “instrumental helping, on the one hand, requires one not only to recognize someone’s instrumental need but also to recognize effective interventions that support goal completion”. Helping is harder and requires greater cognitive processing and problem-solving.

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In a world where sharing and helping may be becoming hard to learn, music programs may be even more important than ever in the early childhood years.

Read more here

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