Contextualising the Relationship Between Music, Emotions and the Well-being of Young People: A Critical Interpretive Synthesis

Katrina Skewes McFerran


A convergent parallel design was used to interrogate two sets of literature produced by researchers investigating music, emotions and well-being: the first being 16 quantitative music psychology studies, the second being seven qualitative music therapy studies. A series of critical analyses examined some of the main assumptions that had influenced the design of the studies, largely related to the nomothetic or idiographic approaches adopted by the researchers, as well as beliefs about how music is best used for either emotion regulation or emotional expression. The results of the critical analyses were then synthesised into a set of three theoretical propositions describing how uses of music may vary across a well-being continuum, particularly noting that the same music can have a different effect depending on the state of well-being of the individual. It is proposed that when people use music to engage with strong emotions while distressed, qualitatively different experiences result that may require a supportive, even therapeutic context. The value of contextualising rather than generalising about music and emotions is therefore argued, particularly for vulnerable young people who might rely on ways of using music to engage with emotions that do not sufficiently account for their current state of well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)