Exploring the long-term associations between adolescents’ music training and academic achievement

There is a positive relationship between learning music and academic achievement, although doubts remain regarding the mechanisms underlying this association. This research analyses the academic performance of music and non-music students from seventh to ninth grade. The study controls for socioeconomic status, intelligence, motivation and prior academic achievement. Data were collected from 110 adolescents at two time points, once when the students were between 11 and 14 years old in the seventh grade, and again 3 years later. Our results show that music students perform better academically than non-music students in the seventh grade (Cohen’s d = 0.88) and in the ninth grade (Cohen’s  d = 1.05). This difference is particularly evident in their scores in Portuguese language and natural science; the difference is somewhat weaker in history and geography scores, and is least pronounced in mathematics and English scores ( η 2 p from .09 to .21). A longitudinal analysis also revealed better academic performance by music students after controlling for prior academic achievement ( η 2 p = .07). Furthermore, controlling for intelligence, socioeconomic status and motivation did not eliminate the positive association between music learning from the seventh to the ninth grade and students’ academic achievement ( η 2 p = .06). During the period, music students maintained better and more consistent academic standing. We conclude that, after controlling for intelligence, socioeconomic status and motivation, music training is positively associated with academic achievement.

Year 2016
Type Journal Article with peer review
Publication Musicae Scientiae, 20(4)
Pages 512-527
ISBN / ISSN DOI: 0.1177/1029864915623613
Language English