The effects of a creative dance and movement program on the social competence of head start preschoolers.

Lobo, Y. B., & Winsler, A. (2006). The effects of a creative dance and movement program on the social competence of head start preschoolers. Social Development. 15, 501-519.

Abstract:

This study assesses the effects of a creative dance/movement program on the social competence of preschool children. Preschool children in a Head Start program were randomly assigned to participate in either an eight-week creative dance/movement program or a control group in which the children had free play. The researchers found that students assigned to the creative dance/movement program improved their overall social competence, and experienced fewer internalizing problems (e.g., depression, withdrawal, and anxiety) and externalizing behaviors (e.g., aggression) compared to students who did not receive the program.

Key Findings:

The study found that students randomly assigned to the creative dance/movement program improved their overall social skills. Further, dance students experienced fewer internalizing problems (e.g., depression, withdrawal, and anxiety) and externalizing behavior problems (e.g., aggression) compared to student who did not receive the program.

Significance of the Findings:

Even after a relatively short dance program (35 minutes, twice a week for eight weeks), teachers and parents reported that students improved their social skills and had fewer behavioral problems. The study focused on low-income Head Start students. Early childhood educators, including those in low-income areas, may wish to include dance instruction as a means to improve young students’ social skill and decrease behavioral issues.

Methodology:

Preschool children in a Head Start program were randomly assigned to participate in either an eight-week creative dance/movement program (n=21) or a control group (n=19) where the children played. The students were taken out of their classroom at the beginning of the day two times a week for 35 minutes for the creative dance instruction or free play. Parents and teachers did not know which students were in the creative dance/movement program or the control group. Parents and teachers completed the Social Competence Behavior Evaluation: Preschool Edition (SCBE) prior to and after the eight-week program. The SCBE was used to measure children’s social skills, internalizing behavior problems, and externalizing behavior problems. Analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted to determine whether there were significant differences in the behavioral problems and social skill between students in the creative dance/movement program and the control group.

Limitations of the Research:

The sample sizes of the two groups were small, limiting generalizability. Additional research replicating the study with more children would add validity to the findings.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Why are dance classes related to improved social skills and fewer behavioral problems in children? Would other art classes produce similar results? Would similar results be observed in older children? Are the improvements maintained over time?