The Role of Behavioral Inhibition for Conversational Speech and Language Characteristics of Preschool-Age Children Who Stutter

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The purpose of this study was to investigate whether preschool-age children who stutter (CWS) were more likely to exhibit a temperamental trait of behavioral inhibition (BI), a correlate of shyness, than children who do not stutter (CWNS) and whether this temperamental trait affected preschool-age children's speech fluency and language complexity during a conversation with an unfamiliar adult.

Sixty-eight preschool-age children (31 CWS, 37 CWNS) participated. The degree of BI was assessed by measuring the latency to their sixth spontaneous comment and the number of all spontaneous comments during a conversation with an unfamiliar examiner (following Kagan et al.'s [1987] methodology). Parent report of shyness from the Children's Behavior Questionnaire served as an indirect measure of BI. Children's language complexity was assessed by measuring their mean length of utterance and the number of words spoken. For CWS, the frequency of stuttering and the negative impact of stuttering were also assessed.

First, we found no between-group differences in the degree of BI across the behavioral observation measures. However, CWS were rated shyer by parents than CWNS. Second, for CWS only, higher BI was associated with less complex utterances and fewer words spoken. Third, for CWS, higher BI was associated with fewer stuttered disfluencies produced.

This study provides empirical evidence that BI to the unfamiliar may have salience for childhood stuttering as it affected the quantity and quality of language spoken with an unfamiliar adult. Clinical implications of high BI for the assessment and treatment of preschool-age stuttering are discussed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number
JournalAmerican Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
StateE-pub ahead of print - 2020


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