Musical mothering: Middle-class strategies and affect across generations

This intergenerational sociological study of ten middle-class mothers explores the relationship between music and the women’s mothering practices. Scholarship seldom focusses on mothers’ voices in relation to their work in raising musical children and maintaining musical selves. The study, undertaken in a capital Australian city, employed a narrative methodology integrated with Bourdieusian and feminist mothering theory to analyse the intersections of music, motherhood, gender, class, and generation. Applying Bourdieu’s conceptual toolkit illustrates musical mothering is a gendered and classed practice in which mothers make strategic choices to construct ‘good’ and moral mothering subjectivities. Feminist mothering theory complements Bourdieu’s theory by emphasising the emotional labour and affective dimensions of mothers’ work through music to make known the extensive work mothers expend in this practice.

The study reveals a diversity of mothers’ stories to illustrate the joys and tensions in cultivating musical children and sustaining their own musical lives. The findings show that music affords women deeper family connections, increased well-being and a means to be perceived as ‘good’ mothers. However, producing musical children can generate much pressure because of the careful negotiations and intense scrutiny involved. This study contributes to intergenerational studies of music and family life by highlighting how engagement with music – formally and informally – has significant consequences for mothering practices in Australia.

Chief investigator



Savage, S. (2019). Exploring the intergenerational responsibility of musical mothering and morality, International Journal of Community Music, 12(1),105 – 122

Savage, S., & Prosser, H. (under review). Narrating musical motherhoods: Methodological implications for participants and researchers, Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education.

Chief Investigators