Intensive mothering through music in early childhood education

This study explores the experiences of Australian mothers who have attended early childhood music classes with their child prior to formal schooling. In early childhood music education, research on parental involvement has focused on the benefits for the child in nurturing a perceived talent and encouraging motivation and practise. Parents’ participation in extracurricular activities commonly involves gendered and classed practices where mothers seek activities which will accrue advantages in future educational and employment arenas. Such involvement is known to provoke anxiety and stress amongst mothers where competitiveness predominates. Current research emphasises the enormous amount of emotional capital mothers spend cultivating their children’s lives, and how intensive mothering can have a detrimental effect on mothers’ well-being, often receiving little support from partners.

This research, using a narrative case study methodology, explores the experiences of thirteen middle-class mothers who have attended early childhood music classes with their child for over twelve months. Using sociologically inspired themes, this study will discuss some of the gendered and classed dimensions of the mothers’ parenting that attending these classes involves. In stark contrast to the negative picture of burden often portrayed in feminist research, the findings also demonstrate a positive side to involvement for mothers’ own well-being. Camaraderie, parenting support and the opportunity to share in an activity that adds value to family life are amongst the apparent benefits. Focusing on the value of participation in their child’s extracurricular activities, it is hoped that more mothers will involve themselves as willing participants in early childhood music programmes.

Chief investigator



Savage, S. (2015). Understanding mothers’ perspectives on early childhood music programmes. Australian Journal of Music Education, 2, 127 – 139.

Savage, S., & Hall, C. (2017). Thinking through and beyond the cultural contradictions of motherhood through music. In Music of motherhood: History, healing, and activism. (pp. 32 – 50). Toronto: Demeter.