Listening to Music Improves Language Skills in Children Prenatally Exposed to Cocaine


Music and Medicine (Online)




The effectiveness of listening to music, as an intervention to improve language skills, was tested with young children prenatally exposed to cocaine. In addition to the prenatal exposure to cocaine, these children often share family experiences such as substance abuse, poverty, and mental illness that are prevalent in chronically stressed families in which abuse and trauma are likely to occur. In the current study 62 children, between the ages of 17 and 30 months, who were receiving a center-based intervention program, participated in a 16-week music-based trial. The trial consisted of listening to music 5 days a week for 16 weeks. During the first week music listening sessions were 50-minutes and during the subsequent 15 weeks the daily listening sessions were 10 minutes. Participants were randomly assigned to three groups: a filtered music group that listened to vocal music filtered to emphasize frequencies within the bandwidth of spontaneous human speech, an unfiltered music group that listened to the same vocal music in its original unaltered form, and a control group that only received the standard early intervention services provided by the preschool. Outcomes were evaluated with assessments for expressive and receptive language skills. Results document that children, who listened to either the filtered or unaltered music, showed greater gains on language skills than the control group. The findings suggest that providing scheduled times to listen to vocal music similar to a mother singing a lullaby would provide a simple cost-effective language intervention.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Children; Cognitive Abilities; Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction; Infants; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Recorded Music Listening; Substance Use, Abuse and Addiction

Indexed Terms

Cocaine; Listening; Vocal music; Early intervention; Poverty; Drug abuse; Mental disorders; Prenatal development

Study Type

Case-Control Study; Qualitative Methods

Document Type