Sofia Serra-Dawa

The involvement between musician and music score: an analysis of musical skill acquisition process in accordance to Adult Attachment Theory.

Adult relationships accrue on a variety of past social experiences, intentions, and emotions that might predispose and influence the approach to and construction of subsequent relationships. The Adult Attachment Theory (AAT) proposes four types of adult attachment, where attachment is built over two dimensions of anxiety and avoidance: Secure, Anxious-preoccupied, Dismissive-avoidant, and Fearful-avoidant. The AAT has been studied in multiple settings such as personal and therapeutic relationships, educational settings, sexual orientation, health, and religion. In music scholarship, the AAT has been used to frame the relational behavior between voice teachers and students (Serra-Dawa, 2014), music therapy (Malchiodi e Crewshaw, 2015) and musical performance anxiety (Kenny, 2018). Building on these studies, the present inquiry studies how attachment types might characterize music training and its emotional involvement on professional musicians (in the Western Conservatory tradition), and whether musical choices might correlate to given attachment styles.

This study is informed by the methodological framework of Adult Attachment Scale-R (Collins and Read, 1990; Canavarro, 1995), which was particularly chosen given its non-invasive questions and classificatory validation. Additionally, a self-report diary, describing the emotional involvement and interpretation of repertoire by the musicians, was made in order to allow the characterization of music/ musician relation.

It is further hypothesized that the analytical comparison of musicians’ profiles has the potential to serve as the baseline for other comparative emotional involvement with music score [this component is expected to be verified and completed well before the conference meeting]. This research may have implications for practitioners concerned with matching and improving musical relationships and in (professional and amateur) long-term musical settings.



Canavarro, M. C. (1995). EVA – Versão Portuguesa da Adult Attachment Scale-R, Collins & Read, 1990.

Collins, N. L. & Read, S. J. (1990). Adult attachment relationships, Working models and relationship quality in dating couples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 644-683.

Kenny, D. T. and holmes, J. (2018). Attachment quality is associated with music performance anxiety in professional musicians: an exploratory narrative study. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 49(3), 283-298.

Malchiodi, C. A. and Crenshaw, D. A. (Eds.) (2015). Creative Arts and Play Therapy for Attachment Problems. The Guildford Press. New York.

Serra-Dawa, S. (2014). The teacher-student relationship in one-to-one singing lessons: a longitudinal investigation of Personality and Adult Attachment. In S. Harrison and J. O’Bryan (Eds.). Teaching Singing in the 21st Century. Brisbane: Springer Publishing.


CITAR — Portuguese Catholic University, Portugal

Sofia Serra owns a PhD and master’s degree from the University of Sheffield (UK) in Music Psychology and Education, a master’s degree from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London) and a Singing performative degree from ESMAE in Porto. She is a teacher and coordinator of the master’s degree in Music Education, Post-Graduation in Sacred Music and the Advanced Learning at UCP. She is a researcher at the CITAR in the areas of Performance and Psychology of Music. She teached at the Lisbon ESML and at Saint Joseph University in Macau. Performed in opera, oratorio, solo recital, including BBC Proms Festival, BBC Radio 3. She won the 2nd Prize in Tracy Chadwell Competition (London) and the 2nd Young Entrepreneurs XXI Prize in a cultural project of Opera.