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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011, Article ID 250708, 14 pages
Original Article

The Impact of Group Drumming on Social-Emotional Behavior in Low-Income Children

1Pediatric Pain Program, Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
2Clinical Science Program, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

Received 10 August 2009; Accepted 19 May 2010

Copyright © 2011 Ping Ho et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Low-income youth experience social-emotional problems linked to chronic stress that are exacerbated by lack of access to care. Drumming is a non-verbal, universal activity that builds upon a collectivistic aspect of diverse cultures and does not bear the stigma of therapy. A pretest-post-test non-equivalent control group design was used to assess the effects of 12 weeks of school counselor-led drumming on social-emotional behavior in two fifth-grade intervention classrooms versus two standard education control classrooms. The weekly intervention integrated rhythmic and group counseling activities to build skills, such as emotion management, focus and listening. The Teacher’s Report Form was used to assess each of 101 participants (n = 54 experimental, n = 47 control, 90% Latino, 53.5% female, mean age 10.5 years, range 10–12 years). There was 100% retention. ANOVA testing showed that intervention classrooms improved significantly compared to the control group in broad-band scales (total problems (P < .01), internalizing problems (P < .02)), narrow-band syndrome scales (withdrawn/depression (P < .02), attention problems (P < .01), inattention subscale (P < .001)), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-oriented scales (anxiety problems (P < .01), attention deficit/hyperactivity problems (P < .01), inattention subscale (P < .001), oppositional defiant problems (P < .03)), and other scales (post-traumatic stress problems (P < .01), sluggish cognitive tempo (P < .001)). Participation in group drumming led to significant improvements in multiple domains of social-emotional behavior. This sustainable intervention can foster positive youth development and increase student-counselor interaction. These findings underscore the potential value of the arts as a therapeutic tool.