Three Investigations of Phonological Awareness and Music Aptitude

Open Access
Culp, Mara Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Music Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 17, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Joanne Rutkowski, Dissertation Advisor
  • Joanne Rutkowski, Committee Chair
  • Linda Thornton, Committee Member
  • Ann C. Clements, Committee Member
  • Hoi K. Suen, Outside Member
  • Barbara Roberts, Special Member
  • phonological awareness
  • music
  • special needs
  • speech and language impairments
  • speech therapy
  • reading
Phonological awareness skills are important for success in language-related tasks, such as reading and speaking. Deficits in phonological awareness can lead to difficulties learning to read and are associated with speech perception and production problems. Children who have difficulty articulating the sounds of speech may have phonological awareness deficits and are more likely to experience delayed academic, communicative, and socioemotional development. Relationships between music aptitude and phonological awareness have been reported among typically developing children and those with dyslexia. Further, musical participation has helped improve phonological skills in these populations during literacy/phonological programs or when students engage in general music activities. The majority of previous investigations have examined these relationships in preschool and kindergarten children, whose phonemic inventories are still developing. Little is known about the relationship between music aptitude and phonological awareness among children whose music aptitude is still developing, but whose mental representations of speech sounds are more nearly complete. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the relationship between phonological awareness and music aptitude among children in grades 2 and 3, as well as children with speech sound disorders. Three studies were conducted in which a phonological awareness test and a music aptitude test were administered to three groups of elementary students in Pennsylvania. In Study 1, I sought to understand this relationship among children in second grade (N = 17). Study 2 was a longitudinal investigation in which participants from Study 1 (N = 7) were re-tested in third grade. During Study 3, this relationship was examined among children with speech sound disorders (N = 12) who were in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and third grade. Findings indicated a significant, positive relationship between phonological awareness and music aptitude. Linear regressions determined music aptitude raw scores were reasonable predictors for phonological awareness standardized scores among typically developing children and children with speech sound disorders. Further, tonal music aptitude measured in second grade may predict phonological awareness measured in third grade. Results from these investigations indicate the auditory processing skills necessary for phonological awareness are related to those required for musical understanding.