Parents who listen to music with their kids are more likely to enjoy close relationships with them, according to a new study in the Journal of Family Communication. The findings further suggest that singing, dancing, and listening to music becomes increasingly important for family bonding as kids get older—precisely when they start resisting your taste in music and penchant for bad dancing.
“If you have little kids, and you play music with them, that helps you be closer to them, and later in life will make you closer to them,” said coauthor on the study Jake Harwood of University of Arizona, in a statement.
Music is thought to promote bonding for a number of reasons, but research shows it’s mostly because music causes dancing. Studies suggest that, when two people move in sync with one another, this creates attachment between them. There’s evidence that this effect is even stronger in children, which prompted Harwood and colleagues to question how music could affect parenting.
For the study, researchers asked 157 young adults how often they listened music with their parents as children, and how frequently they engaged in musical activities like going to concerts or playing instruments. Respondents recalled memories from ages eight onward, and reported what their relationships were like with their parents as adults, too. Results revealed that familial musical experiences at every age level were linked with better self-reported parent-child relationships in young adulthood. However, shared music seemed to have the strongest effects during adolescence. Harwood suspects that this is because singing and dancing is very common with younger kids, but with teenagers it’s more rare—and thus more impactful.
Either way, the main message for parents is that it’s important to get into musical habits early on. These interactions can be as simple as driving in the car with your favorite songs playing, Harwood says. Study coauthor Sandi Wallace added that parents should consider letting their kids pick the music as well, which may get hard to get used to. But who knows—you might end up really connecting with Taylor Swift’s work.
“For people who are just becoming parents or have small children, they may be thinking long term about what they want their relationship with their kids to be,” Wallace said. “It’s not to say that this is going to be the prescription for a perfect relationship, but any parent wants to find ways to improve their relationship with their child and make sure that it’s maintained long term, and this may be one way it can be done.”