CP Children Get Certain Benefits From Hip-hop Dancing, Study Suggests


Participating in adapted hip-hop dancing can improve the quality of life and social engagement in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP), a small study suggests.

Titled “Influence of adapted hip-hop dancing on quality of life and social participation among children/adolescents with cerebral palsy,” the study was published in Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria.

Dance is a form of exercise, but it is also a social experience and an opportunity for artistic expression, and it can be modified to suit the needs of people with limited movement abilities.

“Dance enables opportunities for engaging in a social activity, while providing a therapeutic benefit,” the researchers said.

In their study, nine children and adolescents with CP took adapted hip-hop dance classes for 20 months (the study group). The intervention involved one-hour classes once per week. On average, the participants each attended about 21 total classes, in addition to at-home rehearsals and a performance. The average age was about 13 years old in the group, which was about evenly split between males and females, and between black and white participants.

For comparison, the study also assessed another nine children and adolescents with CP and with similar demographics who did not participate in the dance classes, dubbed the control group.

The participants’ quality of life was measured with the Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument, and social factors were assessed with the Child Behavior Checklist for ages 6–18 years, both of which were completed by the participants’ parent(s) or caregiver(s) with the aid of an undergraduate student who was blinded to which group the child was in.

The Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument includes 108 objective questions distributed in six domains: upper extremity and physical function, transfer and basic mobility, sporting and physical function, pain and comfort, happiness, and global function and symptoms.

Both groups were assessed before and after the dance-based intervention.

“The present study assessed the impact of the practice of adapted hip-hop dancing by children/adolescents with CP and found an effective improvement in [quality of life] in the [study group], particularly in the transfer and basic mobility, sporting and physical function, and global function and symptoms domains,” the researchers wrote.

Specifically, although both groups had comparable average quality of life scores prior to the intervention, after it, the study group had significantly higher average scores than the control group in the transfer and basic mobility domain (96.1 for the study group vs. 81.9 for the control group) and in the global function and symptoms domain (89.2 vs. 78.9). The control group tended to have lower scores prior to the dancing intervention, although the differences were not statistically significant.

In the sporting and physical function domain, scores between the two groups were significantly different before the intervention, so the effect of dance classes was less clear.

In terms of social assessment, after the dance intervention, participants in the study group reported significant decreases in average scores related to many social/behavioral problems, including aggressive behavior (60.1 prior to the intervention vs. 54.6 afterwards), anxiety problems (58.4 vs. 52.3), and social problems (63.6 vs. 57.9). Similar changes were not observed in the control group.

Additionally, statistical analyses suggested that greater improvements were seen among participants who attended more of the classes.

“In addition to promoting psychomotor and physical work and influencing functionality, this pleasant activity [hip-hop dance] is an option for seeking consistent alternatives for better social integration and [quality of life] of children/adolescents with CP,” the researchers wrote.

They added, “The positive results of this research suggest that more studies should be carried out to safely and efficiently expand this practice, so it may be performed more frequently, to become a great ally to the well-being of children and adolescents with CP.”

Marisa holds an MS in Cellular and Molecular Pathology from the University of Pittsburgh, where she studied novel genetic drivers of ovarian cancer. She specializes in cancer biology, immunology, and genetics. Marisa began working with BioNews in 2018, and has written about science and health for SelfHacked and the Genetics Society of America. She also writes/composes musicals and coaches the University of Pittsburgh fencing club.

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Ana holds a PhD in Immunology from the University of Lisbon and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM) in Lisbon, Portugal. She graduated with a BSc in Genetics from the University of Newcastle and received a Masters in Biomolecular Archaeology from the University of Manchester, England. After leaving the lab to pursue a career in Science Communication, she served as the Director of Science Communication at iMM.

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