stuttering or stammering, speech disorder marked by hesitation and inability to enunciate consonants without spasmodic repetition. Known technically as dysphemia, it has sometimes been attributed to an underlying personality disorder. About half of all those who have speech and voice defects suffer from stuttering or stammering (the terms are used interchangeably). In 65% of people who stutter, there is a family history of the disorder, thus suggesting a genetic link. Studies with twins have also indicated that inheritance has an important role in stuttering; comparing pairs in which at least one twin stuttered, it has been found that identical twins were much more likely to be stutterers than fraternal twins (see multiple birth). Brain scans of stutterers have found higher than normal activity in brain areas that coordinate conscious movement, suggesting that in people who stutter speech occurs less automatically than it does in most people.

In many instances the speech disturbance appears to be precipitated by such situations as a change of surroundings, the advent of a younger child in the family, or by a family environment in which parents are overly concerned with childhood speech interruptions, which occur normally. Negative reactions to the stuttering frequently create feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, which, in turn, intensify the condition. Parents with young children who stutter have been urged by specialists to help their children develop positive attitudes about themselves and their speech. Older stutterers are taught to understand what processes interfere with fluent speech and to speak without the disruptions caused by tension. Psychiatric treatment and group psychotherapy have been helpful for many.

See M. Jezer, Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words (1997).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Stuttering: A Short History of a Curious Disorder
Marcel E. Wingate.
Bergin & Garvey, 1997
Stuttering Research and Practice: Bridging the Gap
Nan Bernstein Ratner; E. Charles Healey.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999
Understanding Stuttering and Counseling Clients Who Stutter
Ginsberg, Amy Patraka; Wexler, Karib B.
Journal of Mental Health Counseling, Vol. 22, No. 3, July 2000
Counseling, Support, and Advocacy for Clients Who Stutter
Altholz, Suzanne; Golensky, Martha.
Health and Social Work, Vol. 29, No. 3, August 2004
Theoretical Issues in Stuttering
Ann Packman; Joseph S. Attanasio.
Taylor & Francis, 2004
Evidence-Based Treatment of Stuttering: Empirical Bases and Clinical Applications
Anne K. Bothe.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Neuropsychology of Stuttering
Einer Boberg.
University of Alberta Press, 1993
Handbook of Communication and People with Disabilities: Research and Application
Dawn O. Braithwaite; Teresa L. Thompson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 24 "Communicating with Persons Who Stutter: Perceptions and Strategies"
Long-Term Follow-Up of Self-Modeling as an Intervention for Stuttering
Bray, Melissa A.; Kehle, Thomas J.
School Psychology Review, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter 2001
Preponderance of Lead Voice Onset Times in Stutterers under Varying Constraints
Viswanath, Nagalapura S.; Rosenfield, David B.
Communication Disorders Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1, Fall 2000
Left Brain--Right Brain Differences: Inquiries, Evidence, and New Approaches
James F. Iaccino.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of stuttering begins on p. 102
Explorations in Nonverbal and Vocal Behavior
George F. Mahl.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 18 "The Use of 'Ah' in Spontaneous Speech"
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