Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: stuttering from The Columbia Encyclopedia

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 Jezer, M., Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words (1997).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Stuttering
Cambridge Handbook of Psychology, Health and Medicine

Stuttering (often termed ‘stammering’ in the UK) is a disorder of speech rhythm or fluency. Speakers are prevented from saying what they want to...

Full text Article STUTTERING
Encyclopedia of School Psychology

Stuttering is defined as dysfluencies in speech including wholeand part-word repetitions, sound and syllable prolongations, and silent or audible...

Full text Article dysphemia
Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary

a speech disorder characterized especially by stammering or stuttering and usually having a psychological basis

See more from Credo