Predicting who takes music lessons: parent and child characteristics

Frontiers in Psychology 6:110046 (2015)
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Studies on associations between music training and cognitive abilities typically focus on the possible benefits of music lessons. Recent research suggests, however, that many of these associations stem from niche-picking tendencies, which lead certain individuals to be more likely than others to take music lessons, especially for long durations. Because the initial decision to take music lessons is made primarily by a child's parents, at least at younger ages, we asked whether individual differences in parents' personality predict young children's duration of training. Children between 7 and 9 years of age ( N = 170) with varying amounts of music training completed a measure of IQ. Their parents provided demographic information as well as ratings of their own and their child's Big Five personality dimensions. Children's personality traits predicted duration of music training even when demographic variables and intelligence were held constant, replicating findings reported previously with 10- to 12-year-olds and 17-year-olds. A novel finding was that parents' openness-to-experience predicted children's duration of training, even when characteristics that pertained to children (demographic variables, intelligence, and personality) were controlled statistically. Our findings are indicative of passive and active gene-environment correlations, whereby genetic predispositions influence the likelihood that a child will have certain experiences, such as music training.



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