Why Do People Stutter?

Public speaking is difficult if you stutter

Many people say I speak fast. As someone who moved to New York, I consider that a compliment. However, to work on TV one has to speak clearly and effectively, which is why this question intrigued me:

Rousheca Watts ‏@RoushecaW
@DrOz Am dying to hear your thoughts on why some people #STUTTER!

According to the Center for Stuttering Therapy, over 3 million Americans stutter. It affects four to five times as many males as females. However, there are no accepted biological or psychological reasons for why people stutter. However, there are some theories in development.

Though people of all ages stutter, it is especially prevalent among young children between the ages of two and five who struggle to develop their language skills. However, despite the challenges involved with stuttering, it isn’t associated with mental disorders, personality disorders, or intelligence disorders. The majority of stutterers have normal intelligence. In fact, most eventually outgrow their stuttering habit as they get older.
However, there is a small subset of people who remain stutterers through adulthood. It can drastically affect social interactions, career choices and mental health. However, some continue and become very successful, including Winston Churchill, James Earl Jones, Marilyn Monroe, and King George VI.

Most experts believe that stuttering comes from a combination of biological and environmental factors. Stuttering does run in families, which indicates some neurological and genetic causes. If one identical twin stutters, there’s a greater chance that the other twin will become a stutterer.

Peter Wolson, a psychoanalyst, also considers psychological and social reasons for stuttering. He thinks some cases of stuttering, like that of King Geogre VI, arise from “internal conflicts due to family influences.”

“[King George VI’s] symptom of stuttering served the defensive function of blocking any provocative speech while making him look inadequate, thereby diminishing the fear of his aggression and its anxiety-inducing consequences.” He and many experts connect his cure to talk therapy, in the form of psychoanalysis, by his speech therapist.

These theories are both compelling. However, I still think we’ll need years of research before cracking down on the exact mechanisms that lead to stuttering. In the meantime, if you have a child who stutters, bring him or her to visit a speech-language pathologist for counseling before the stuttering too strongly affects his or her social well-being.