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Special Education Research Critique Essay


Rickson, D. J., & Watkins, W. G. (2003). Music therapy to promote prosocial behaviors in aggressive adolescent boys A pilot study. _Journal of Music Therapy, 40_(4), 283-301.


The hypothesis of this research study was to determine if music therapy would help promote prosocial behaviors in aggressive boys. These subjects have different social, emotional, and learning disorders.


The subjects were selected from a group of 88 young boys who have intellectual, social, and emotional deficits. These boys were enrolled in a special education facility in New Zealand. The students who started before May 2000 and after March 2001, which was 49 students, were not included because of the likelihood of them leaving before the study was completed. This left a remaining 39 students. These students were given the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) test. A total of 21 students were excluded due to lack of aggressiveness and already gone through musical therapy. Researchers were left with 18 boys whose ages ranged from about 11 years and six months to 15 years and three months. These subjects had an extreme measure on the CBCL test. 12 of the boys were already diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Of the 12, five had a dual diagnosis which included Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Conduct Disorder (CD). Four had a general developmental delay and two had a head injury along with depression. About half of the boys were taking psychotropic medication. They were randomly assigned into two music groups of six and one control group of six. One subject was suspended right after the therapy began. Another quit after a few minutes into a session. Also, one more was suspended from school after one session due to extreme disruptive and aggressive behavior. A total 15 students completed the treatment. The treatment was the participants were placed into different music groups. In the music groups, the students would do different musical activities and express themselves through music.


There was an increase in disruptive and aggressive behavior in Group 1. This is a negative result due to the treatment. Group 2 had no changes in behavior. Group 3 also had little to no change in their behavior at school.


No significant statistical differences were found after the treatment was completed. Because there was no difference, there can be no definitive conclusion to be made by the author. Some social workers did record small improvements that were interesting and could lead to further study. They noted that the subjects were not as aggressive as they were before the research study. The author would also like to try to do another study but have it be based on a specific diagnosis of the subject.


The usefulness of this treatment is very minimal. The results after the treatment was conducted were negative or neutral overall. If I were to try and implement it into a classroom environment, I am not sure if it will be helpful in any way.


I feel like this study not fully prepared or researched. The researchers did states their hypothesis, addressed the results, and the sample size. But the treatment itself was not successful. The sample size for this kind of treatment should have been bigger than just 15 students. The researchers could have gone and tested other schools or even elementary and high school. A sample size of 15 subjects cannot represent 100 subjects. In conclusion, this musical treatment study was not well planned out.

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