What Causes Stuttering?

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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Stuttering is an interruption in the fluency of verbal expression. It is a complaint that has been known for centuries and occurs in all cultures and ethnic groups. Stuttering is symptom, not a disease, but the word stuttering is usually used for both the symptom and the disorder which causes it.

The development of stuttering commonly occurs before puberty, between two and five years of age. The technical term is persistent developmental stuttering (PDS). There is also acquired or neurogenic stuttering, which occurs after brain damage. The neurogenic sufferer may have had a stroke or head trauma before acquiring a stutter.

PDS is usually most noticeable at the beginning of a phrase, word or complex sentence. Associated with this is the anxiety the sufferer feels, which tends to elevate the problem. However, at repeated readings of the same material, the frequency of stuttering tends to decline due to adaptation and consistency.

PDS is a very common disorder. Around 1% of the population suffer from the complaint, including an estimated three million people in the United States and a total of 55 million worldwide. There is no difference based on social class, and stuttering can severely hinder communication to cause very serious social problems for the individual. Stuttering may be an inherited problem passed on from generation to generation.


The recovery rates for a PDS sufferer are about 80%, and the recovery rate is considerably more frequent in girls than in boys. It is not clear to what extent recovery depends on the efforts of the patient as opposed to the help of speech therapists, who use breathing techniques to help patients overcome the stuttering. Also, there is no way of predicting whether an affected child will recover from the complaint or not.

There are many different theories about the origin of stuttering and its corresponding treatment. Some regard it as a learned behavior resulting from an unhappy home life and the way a parent reacts towards a child's problems. The severity of the problem is clearly made worse by arousal, nervousness and embarrassment, although some brave stutterers have treated their own problem by putting themselves on the spot in front of a large audience, only to find the problem vanish when they confront it head on.

Recent scientific findings from brain scans have shown that stutterers have slight abnormalities in complex coordination tasks. This suggests that the underlying problems are to be found around motor and associated premotor brain areas. As brain scans become more and more sophisticated, it is hoped that more information will become available regarding language areas of the brain and the causes of stuttering.


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Post 12

my friend has a stuttering problem. what can we do?

Post 11

My son has been stuttering since the age of 3 (he is now 9). Teachers, friends, and family always told us he'd out grow it, but he didn't and more than likely won't. Stuttering is genetic.

He has been in speech therapy since the age of 4. Speech therapy does not cure stuttering; it teaches our son to use techniques to help him control it and handle his anxiety and stress when speaking socially and in public.

Speech has boosted his self esteem and taught him an understanding of his stutter but my son will tell you it is a lot of work to use his speech techniques at school. I am no expert in stuttering but I am definitely a parent who has educated herself and is learning every day how to parent a complicated severe stutterer. If anyone is struggling, I will be happy to lend support.

Post 10

My grandson just turned four. He is receiving speech services. However stuttering has never been a problem. Then a couple days after his birthday he started stuttering. What can I do? What could this mean?

Post 8

My step daughter is eight years old, and within the last couple of months she has started stuttering. It started off occasionally but now it is all the time. She can hardly get a complete sentence out without stuttering and if she gets nervous or excited we have noticed it becomes incredibly worse.

What could have caused her to start stuttering when her speech has always been perfect? I am very concerned! If anyone has any ideas I am completely open for suggestions!

Post 7

This article is one of the worst I have read on stuttering. Its use of words reflects negatively on stutterers. Stuttering is not a 'complaint'. Calling it a symptom or disorder suggests it came be fixed or cured.

People, 'suffer from the complaint' -- what is that? Implying 'Recovery depends on the help of the patient'? And, therapists don't help patients 'overcome' stuttering. That suggests they can make it go away or cure it.

And, public speaking stutters find the problem goes away when confronted? Please anyone who reads this article find another source, this one is just horrible.

Post 5

I am 42 and have stuttered around people for all my life. a friend has just recently said that the cause of it was fetal alcohol syndrome. I know it's fear but he rebuffs that and refuses to believe it's fear. so fellow stutterers don't let people speak stuff over you. :-)

Post 4

My son turned 3 in April. he just recently (about three months ago) started to stutter. I'm not sure why. He was developing a a normal rate if not above average. Then all of a sudden the stuttering began. No one in our home stutters, and i'm not sure if it's something he picked up at the sitters. Is this something I should be concerned about, or allow some time before I seek treatment to see if he simply grows out of it?

Post 3

My daughter has never had a speech problem growing up, but she is almost sixteen now and she began stuttering every time she speaks.

Is this normal?

Post 2

I am a care giver to a woman who has suffered a bilateral thalamic stroke a year ago now. Just in the last few weeks..she has started to stutter. I can see her frustration and it angers her. How i deal with I tell her to shut her eyes. Then speak. This helps every time.. My theory closing the stop any visual input. Thus giving the brain just the task of speaking without any other outside distractions. You might try this with your child. Its probably nothing to really worry about, and with your guidance his brain to mouth coordination will continue to develop normally.

Post 1

My son is almost 4yrs old. He speaks very well for a child. I have been told by his doctor that he is above average for his age. The problem I am having is he is that stuttering all of a sudden. He will repeat the words he is trying to say. Example: wa wat water. Every word in the sentence will be like this and it takes him a long time to get the words out that he is trying to say. It is something new and it concerns me. Can you please tell me what could be causing this? What treatments do you suggest?

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