A Randomized Pilot Study of Rhythm-Based Music with Movement Strategies on Stress and Interaction Behaviors of Infant Caregivers


  • Kamile Geist Ohio University
  • Peggy Zoccola
  • Nathan Andary
  • Eugene Geist
  • Godwin Dogbey
  • Lee Ann Williams
  • Brianna Tuttle




Consistent, prolonged, and nurturing interactions of a primary caregiver with an infant is necessary for optimal development of the infant. Lowering parental stress can promote positive caregiver-infant social interaction behaviors. Studies show that when caregivers use rhythm-based music and movement strategies during interactions with their infants, non-verbal communication, mutual attunement, and self-reported stress levels improve. The purpose of this pilot study was to determine caregiver benefits (stress hormones and positive interaction behaviors) when learning rhythm-based music with movement strategies while interacting with their infant. This was achieved through randomization of caregiver/infant dyads to a treatment (instructional intervention) or control condition with no instruction. Significantly lower salivary cortisol levels and lower salivary cortisol/DHEA ratio values pre-post were observed for the treatment condition as compared to control. These findings suggest that learning and using rhythm-based music and movement interventions are promising for lowering stress in caregivers. The impact of the intervention with families at risk due to stress-related environmental factors should be further investigated. In addition, observing social emotional behaviors and stress hormone levels of the infant is suggested.

Author Biography

Kamile Geist, Ohio University

Kamile Geist, Ph.D., MT-BC is Professor and Director of the Music Therapy graduate and undergraduate programs at Ohio University, where she has been faculty for 17 years, 9 years as director. Dr. Geist’s research focuses on using music to help improve attention behaviors of children and attachment behaviors between infants and caregivers. She leads an interdisciplinary team in collaboration with the Ohio University Heritage College of Medicine (OU-HCOM), College of Arts and Sciences, and the Patton College of Education to study the effect of a rhythmic intervention on caregivers’ attachment behaviors and stress hormone levels when interacting with their infants. With recent funding from the National Endowment of the Arts, she is expanding her work to community populations in rural Ohio and surrounding areas.


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