Music is commonly used to relieve stress. However, the literature on music and relaxation is often complex, and subject to multiple confounding variables. An overlooked possible third variable is stress system dysregulation, such as in the case of individuals who experienced stress early in life. The current study presented participants with stressful images, followed by either relaxing music or silence to measure the effect of early childhood stress on stress reactivity and recovery. The four measures of early childhood stress included maternal education, paternal education, and total household income, which indicate socioeconomic status, as well as score on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) questionnaire. Music led to significantly more recovery than silence. ACE score was a significant covariate, due to its correlation with stress reactivity levels. Maternal education was related to the amount of change between reactivity and recovery but was not a significant covariate. Neither of these variables were significantly related to overall post-recovery stress levels. This demonstrates that any effects of stress system dysregulation are negated by the effect of music on recovery. Early-life adversity may be a confound in studies of music and relaxation simply because it is related to reactivity. However, as adversity does not affect recovery, it should not affect the ability of individuals to use music as a stress-reduction tool in their day-to-day lives.


Neuhoff, John




Developmental Psychology | Other Psychology


Stress, Stress reactivity, Stress Reduction, Early-life stress, Music, Relaxation

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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