Public Release: 6-Dec-2016
Arts programming may help lower stress in economically disadvantaged preschoolers
Society for Research in Child Development
Previous research has determined that poverty can harm children's educational, social-emotional, and physical health, in part by damaging the bodily systems that respond to the chronically high levels of stress that children in poverty are more likely to experience. A new study has found that intensive arts programs--music, dance, and visual arts--may address this phenomenon by lowering the stress levels of economically disadvantaged preschoolers, as measured through cortisol.
The study, by scientists at West Chester University and the University of Delaware, appears in the journal Child Development.
The researchers found that cortisol levels were lower after arts classes than after homeroom, suggesting that taking part in arts programming helped reduce the stress levels of these children.
"The study has important implications," says Brown. "In an ideal world, no child would grow up in poverty. Working toward this ideal requires attention to not only economic inequities but also to the many related inequities that harm children who grow up poor and to the opportunities for disrupting the strong predictive relationship between poverty and negative outcomes. This study demonstrates that a nonmonetary intervention can reduce cortisol levels. In this case, the intervention is the arts."
Researchers saw these positive effects at the middle and end of the year, but not at the start of the school year. "The physiological benefits of arts programming may not be seen when children are first exposed," explains Mallory Garnett, research coordinator at ECCEL, who also worked on the study. "The benefits may depend on children adjusting to the classes and accumulating skills from the programming."