According to a new study from the University of Arizona, parents who have shared musical experiences with their kids end up having a better relationship with them later in life.
"If you have little kids, and you play music with them, that helps you be closer to them, and later in life will make you closer to them," said Jake Harwood, a study co-author and head of the UA Department of Communication.
Researchers surveyed a group of young adults, with an average age of 21, about the frequency of their musical experiences with their parents during childhood and adolescence. This included listening to music, attending concerts, and playing instruments together.
The study found that music had a positive impact on parent-child relationships because of two factors: coordination and empathy.
According to researchers, sharing musical interests can help parents and kids feel like they're on the same page. Plus, "if you play music with your parent or listen to music with your parents, you might do synchronized activities like dancing or singing together, and data shows that that causes you to like one another more," Harwood explained.
Music also has the ability to conjure emotions, or empathy, lead author and UA graduate Sandi Wallace said. That's why having positive associations with music and parents can help build a good relationship.
"A lot of recent research has focused on how emotions can be evoked through music, and how that can perpetuate empathy and empathic responses toward your listening partner," Wallace said.
The researchers also noted that having shared musical experiences with teens had the biggest impact. According to Harwood, this is likely because young adults consider these "later-in-life experiences" more meaningful or because they are more recent.
"If you have teenagers and you can successfully listen to music together or share musical experiences with them, that has an even stronger effect on your future relationship and the child's perception of the relationship in emerging adulthood," he said.
Harwood and Wallace are now encouraging parents to have more musical experiences with their kids, even if it's something as simple as listening to music together in the car.
"It's not to say that this is going to be the prescription for a perfect relationship, but any parent wants to find ways to improve their relationship with their child and make sure that it's maintained long term, and this may be one way it can be done," Wallace said.
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