Theory-guided therapeutic function of music to facilitate emotion regulation development in preschool-aged children

Kimberly Sena Moore, Deanna Hanson-Abromeit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Emotion regulation (ER) is an umbrella term to describe interactive, goal-dependent explicit, and implicit processes that are intended to help an individual manage and shift an emotional experience. The primary window for appropriate ER development occurs during the infant, toddler, and preschool years. Atypical ER development is considered a risk factor for mental health problems and has been implicated as a primary mechanism underlying childhood pathologies. Current treatments are predominantly verbal- and behavioral-based and lack the opportunity to practice in-the-moment management of emotionally charged situations. There is also an absence of caregiver–child interaction in these treatment strategies. Based on behavioral and neural support for music as a therapeutic mechanism, the incorporation of intentional music experiences, facilitated by a music therapist, may be one way to address these limitations. Musical Contour Regulation Facilitation (MCRF) is an interactive therapist-child music-based intervention for ER development practice in preschoolers. The MCRF intervention uses the deliberate contour and temporal structure of a music therapy session to mirror the changing flow of the caregiver–child interaction through the alternation of high arousal and low arousal music experiences. The purpose of this paper is to describe the Therapeutic Function of Music (TFM), a theory-based description of the structural characteristics for a music-based stimulus to musically facilitate developmentally appropriate high arousal and low arousal in-the-moment ER experiences. The TFM analysis is based on a review of the music theory, music neuroscience, and music development literature and provides a preliminary model of the structural characteristics of the music as a core component of the MCRF intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number572
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 14 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotion regulation development
  • Music and arousal
  • Preschooler music development
  • Theory
  • Therapeutic function of music

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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