Investigating the Efficacy of Art and Music Therapy with Vulnerable Children and Young People: A Systematic Review

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Peeran U, Ponomarenko A, Yap J

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This systematic review, commissioned by the Pears Foundation, evaluates the existing quantitative evidence base on the impact of art and music therapy with vulnerable children and young people. The review discusses vulnerability in relation to five broad subject areas: adoption, attachment and parent-child bonding, mental health, behavioural and social interaction difficulties and special educational needs. Within these five categories, a total of 10 specific conditions and diagnoses are covered. All studies explored within this review were published since the year 2000 and contain at least some statistical component within their methodologies.

Only 51 statistical studies were identified which explored any one of the five broad areas of vulnerability and only 49 of these considered unique, original studies; two articles revisited the results of previously published research. Of these 49 publications, 36 related to music therapy and just 14 to art therapy.

Despite the need for more rigorous investigation, the review identified broadly encouraging results. A crude categorisation of the 49 studies surmised that 25 produced predominantly positive results. These 25 studies serve to demonstrate that art and music therapy can be effective means of supporting vulnerable children and young people. A breakdown between the two disciplines shows that 54% (7 of the 13) studies exploring art therapy were predominantly positive, slightly higher than the proportion of music therapy investigations (50%; 18 of 36).

However, it is clear that further work is needed before any meaningful conclusions can be drawn about the impact of art and music therapy with respect to specific contexts or diagnoses. The highly complex nature of the various issues discussed within this review, combined with the wide range of approaches deployed across the 49 unique studies, create significant difficulties in drawing definitive and more specific conclusions at this stage. Many questions remain unanswered and there are substantial gaps in the evidence base. The existing evidence is patchy and tends to cluster around particular topics within each of the two disciplines; 78% of the studies identified relate to three of the ten topics.

Evidence Type: Systematic Review

Main Focus: Wellbeing / Quality of life

Research Purpose: Discussion / Debate

Context: Community

Participant Group: Children (0-15)

Art Forms: Multi-Arts

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Ponomarenko A., Yap J., Peeran U. (2017) Investigating the Efficacy of Art and Music Therapy with Vulnerable Children and Young People: A Systematic Review. London: Coram