The University of St. Thomas


Olson, Kristine

Olson, Kristine

Fostering Resiliency Through Music and Movement: A Buffer Against the Stresses of Family Change
Kristine S. Olson

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether creative music and movement activities would help to increase resiliency in students experiencing acute situational stress due to family change.

Resiliency is a term used to describe those qualities or personal traits that foster successful adaptation in the midst of stress, risk, and adversity. Resiliency is defined in terms of internal states of well-being and effective functioning in the environment. We are biologically wired to be resilient, it is what we innately strive for. People with resilient personality traits such as social competency, resourcefulness, autonomy, and a sense of purpose will react better to stress and adversity.

Our genetic make-up is not the only force at work in creating resiliency. Certain attributes of our environment foster or reinforce resiliency. These environmental influences are called protective factors and can be defined within the three broad categories of caring relationships, high expectations, and opportunities for meaningful participation. Studies have shown that protective factors may alter or even reverse expected negative outcomes due to risk and adversity.

The study began with the identification of a group of fifteen children who exhibited negative changes in behavior or emotional well-being which may have been due to a recent stressful family change. The children chosen were experiencing a wide range of family crisis including parental divorce, death, terminal illness in the family, and placement in foster care. The children met as a group before school for twenty minutes, two times a week, for twelve weeks. The meetings focused on exploring a theme through creative music and movement in order to create a final performance piece to share with parents and classmates.

Pre and post intervention surveys were filled out by parents, teachers, and students in order to investigate if behavior and emotional well-being improved due to the interventions. My teaching was evaluated in order to determine if I was providing the protective factors of a caring relationship, high expectations, and opportunities for meaningful participation.

Teacher and parent feedback indicated the most success in changing student behaviors with 73% and 55% respectively of the students receiving higher post-intervention behavior scores than pre-intervention scores. Less success was indicated on overall scores of improved emotional well-being. Yet closer analysis revealed important gains in specific areas of emotional well-being such as self-confidence, sadness, and worries about family. Evaluation of my teaching suggested that the intervention provided the protective factors necessary to increase resiliency in children.

This study showed evidence that a music and movement program can provide the components necessary to foster resiliency in children experiencing family stress, though an actual measure of resiliency could only be accomplished through longitudinal studies.

Capstove Supervisor
Dr. Richard Bents