Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Music Education and Music Therapy (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Shannon K. de l'Etoile

Second Committee Member

Teresa Lesiuk

Third Committee Member

Edward Asmus

Fourth Committee Member

Carlos Abril

Fifth Committee Member

Maria Carlo


The purpose of this study was to examine the role of music perception in predicting phonological awareness in five- and six-year-old children. This study was based on the hypothesis that music perception and phonological awareness appear to have parallel auditory perceptual mechanisms. Previous research investigating the relationship between these constructs—music perception and phonological awareness—has been promising, but inconclusive. Phonological awareness is an important component of early literacy which many children struggle to acquire. If the constructs are shown to be related, music-based interventions may then be developed to promote phonological awareness, thus enhancing early literacy. Music perception, phonological awareness, and visual-spatial skills of 119 five- and six-year-old children were tested. The researcher administered the Children’s Music Aptitude Test (Stevens, 1987) in order to assess perception of pitch, rhythm, and melody. Subsequently, the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (Wagner, Torgesen, & Rashotte, 1999) was administered in order to measure phonological awareness skills, including blending, elision, and sound matching. The Visual Spatial Relations subtest of the Woodcock Johnson III (Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001) was later used to assess visual spatial skills. Structural equation modeling (SEM) allowed the researcher to model relationships between the latent variables to investigate the contribution of music perception, visual-spatial skills, and age to phonological awareness. Results supported the hypothesis that music perception, visual spatial skills, and age predict phonological awareness. Additionally, music perception made a statistically significant contribution to phonological awareness, when controlling for visual spatial skills and age. Specifically, music perception predicted a larger amount of standardized unit change in phonological awareness than did the other predictors in the theory. Thus, music perception appears to have a stronger relationship with phonological awareness than age or visual spatial skills. Further, results showed that a model without music perception as a predictor of phonological awareness was not supported. These findings confirm that music perception plays a unique role in predicting phonological awareness, above and beyond the contribution made by visual spatial skills and age. This study’s results could be used in support of the development of music-based interventions for promoting phonological awareness in five- and six-year-old children.


music perception; phonological awareness; music therapy; music; children; literacy