A new study suggests that dance lessons can actually help mothers and dads feel better about themselves when they are struggling with raising children.
The study, conducted by researchers at McGill University in Montreal and the University of California at Los Angeles, examined more than 3,000 parents and grandparents who had had babies in the last six months and compared their wellbeing over a year.
While parents who took dance lessons saw a slight improvement in their parenting skills, the study found that those who did not attended dance lessons had a greater likelihood of feeling depressed and less likely to report positive feelings about themselves.
“The parents who had taken dance lessons also experienced a slight decline in happiness,” said Dr. Jean-Pierre Bédard, the lead researcher on the study.
“Our study has shown that the beneficial effects of dance are not confined to parents who are already involved in caring for their children.”
The study also found that parents who were more active during the summer and on weekends had the greatest positive impact on their children’s wellbeing.
The authors, who also included University of Toronto psychology professor Christine Wittenberg and sociologist Dr. Jennifer Loughlin, said the results are particularly encouraging as they point to the need for dance classes to be available at all levels of parenting.
“We think that dance classes could be a valuable part of a child’s life, even if they are not the primary way they interact with their parents,” said Wittenheim.
The research, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, was conducted between June and November 2017.
The researchers looked at the outcomes of 4,400 parents and parents of three-year-olds, who were asked to complete surveys about their child’s mood, health, and wellbeing, as well as to assess their feelings about their children.
“One of the most striking findings of this study is that there is a clear relationship between parents’ participation in family dance classes and their childs wellbeing,” said Bébard.
“It was clear that when parents had danced together, they were happier, healthier, and had less depression and more positive feelings.”
The researchers noted that while parents may be better off with dance classes, the benefits don’t necessarily extend to children themselves.
Parents of toddlers and preschoolers were more likely to be in classes that involved more social interaction and less physical activity.
“This study is important because it indicates that a large part of the relationship between dance classes in a family and children’s well-being is mediated by parent involvement,” said Loughline.
“There is evidence that dance participation is a particularly effective way to increase positive moods in children, but there are limitations to this study.
For example, it is difficult to generalize these findings to other types of family dance, such as family theatre or other forms of parent-child dance.”
The research also found a link between the time parents spent in classes and the health of their children and mothers.
“It seems clear that parents’ involvement in family dances helps to foster children’s development, including their physical and mental health,” said study co-author Dr. Isabelle Morin.
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists.
APA’s membership includes more than 108,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students.