Stuttering 101 Complex Communication Disorder : Why Do People Stutter?

woman stuttered

Why do people stutter? Stuttering affects millions of people all around the world. Symptoms of stuttering include involuntary sound repetition and disruption or blocking of speech, also involuntary. People, especially younger people, who suffer from stuttering often face complications such as shame, bullying, social anxiety, fear of public speaking, and a myriad of other things that people who do not suffer from stuttering do not even consider. The usual onset for stuttering is two to five years, and the duration is often long-term or permanent.

Why do people stutter? The causes are not known, and there are no current medications people can take to avoid or cease stuttering. The prognosis is that stuttering may resolve itself by late childhood, but there are still about 20% of cases that last into adulthood. There is no known reason why stuttering may occur or why it may stop over time.

Why do people stutter is a question that scientists and stutterers have asked for many years now, but there does not seem to be a clear answer. Thankfully for those of us who stutter there are exercises we can practice to help, speech therapy we can attend, and psychiatry that will help us with our affliction. In this article we will share with you what stuttering is, why do people stutter, helpful facts about why do people stutter, and possible options for treatment.
We hope this article gives you the courage you need to overcome your self-consciousness and embrace who you are. Stuttering does not have to define you, and it may even be curable!

What Is Stuttering?

The act of stuttering itself is not easy to define because it looks very different in each individual who has it. It can also change over the course of a person's lifetime. As many as 5% of young children stutter, and approximately 1% of all people stutter. That is a grand total of about 70 million people worldwide.
Although no two people who stutter are exactly the same, we can generally understand stuttering in three connected parts. These parts are surface behaviors, impact on attitudes and emotions, and impact on everyday life.

These parts are also known as effective, behavior, and cognitive. Affective details the way one feels about their stuttering such as feeling ashamed, embarrassed, anxious, etc. Behavior is the surface behaviors or observable characteristics of stuttering, and cognitive is the way one thinks about stuttering and themselves such as thinking people don't like them or feel that they are stupid or less of a person.

Surface Behaviors

Surface behaviors are qualities of speech that you can see and hear. For example, a person who stutters may suffer from sound repetitions such as ("Let's ride in the c-c-car"), sound prolongations such as ("Hey, that's mmmmmmy toy"), silent blocks such as ("Let's read a --- book").

There are also secondary characteristics which are other body movements a person does when they are stuttering. This can include eye blinks, leg shaking, a lot of tension in the throat, or a myriad of other characteristics.

Impact on Attitudes and Emotions

When answering the question, "why do people stutter?" one must acknowledge its impact in attitudes and emotions. Some people who stutter may not be bothered by their stuttering at all although for many others this does not ring true. Many other sufferers of stuttering struggle with shame, embarrassment, anxiety, or low self-esteem. For some people, the impact on their quality of life and confidence in themselves can be far more significant than their mere surface behaviors.

This is why it is important to approach loved ones who stutter with care and understanding, perhaps encouraging them that their affliction does not bother you or make you value the person less.

Impact on Everyday Life

Many people who stutter may have issues with things such as public speaking, reading aloud, introducing themselves, or ordering at a restaurant. People who stutter often find themselves going to great lengths to try to hide their stuttering. This is obviously not a good approach as it may make the stuttering itself worse or will more likely cause additional issues with self-esteem or confidence levels. Encourage your loved ones to speak out and be proud of who they are regardless of any speech afflictions or surface behaviors.

It's been shown that children who stutter may also face bullying or teasing at school because of the way that they talk. This can make important learning opportunities such as reading aloud in class or practicing the parts of speech stressful for children. This will cause them to avoid these learning situations and, in extreme cases, stunt your child's growth and proper development in society. Make sure you talk to your child if he or she stutters and get an accurate reading on if they are happy at school and not being picked on.

Each person who stutters will have different surface behaviors and different degrees of difficulty with their speech. It's important to recognize, understand, and keep in mind that stuttering has much more to it than what people on the outside can see and hear.

Why Do People Stutter?

There are many factors that can contribute to stuttering as a child develops. The most up-to-date research says that stuttering may have a genetic link. This can result in a person having small differences in how his or her brain is organized for speech and language. Other contributing factors may include the child's temperament, emotions, and language development.

Stuttering can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as a child who discovers they have a stutter and are therefore different than those around them may clam up and try to avoid speaking at all. This will stunt growth, development, and learning in the child's brain receptors and may cause the stuttering to get worse, which will cause them to clam up more, which will stunt more growth. It can quickly become a vicious cycle, and that is why it is endlessly important to support those who have the stutters and are self-conscious of them, especially children and those who still have brain developments ahead of them.

It is important to know and understand that, although stuttering may have possible genetic links, that it is nobody's fault. Stuttering is not caused by anything parents do during the development stages of their child's life. Core stuttering behaviors themselves are involuntary, which means they cannot always be controlled. Thankfully, there are many people around the world who have figured out helpful and effective ways to work around or minimize the impact of their core stuttering.

There are, of course, speech therapies and support groups they can attend that can play a role in helping individuals to better understand their individual speech patterns and surface behaviors. It's important to remember, however, that each person is different in their stuttering patterns and surface behaviors.
Other possible reasons for why do people stutter are: neurological, components of language development, motoric ability, and the child's temperament.

What Can I Do for a Loved One Who Stutters?

teaching a child

If a family member or child stutters, you are not alone. Although it may be scary or intimidating to learn about stuttering, it is important to know that there are many professionals who are able to help, and a community of families and people who stutter who are willing to share their stories with you as well as their mistakes so you can learn from them.

Each child or family member has different needs when it comes to addressing stuttering. There are many helpful organizations out there such as that offer a number of programs that are perfect for helping your child or loved one approach their stuttering with a confident and open mind.

Other trusted resources for organizations that will offer your child or loved one immense success with their stuttering include:


  • The American Institute for Stuttering at


  • FRIENDS: The National Association of Young People Who Stutter at


  • International Suttering Association at


  • Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children at


  • National Stuttering Association at


  • Specialty Boards on Fluency Disorders at


  • StutterTalk at


  • Stuttering Foundation of America at


  • Stuttering Home Page at


  • Theravive at

As you can see there are endless opportunities for support groups and helpful organizations out there. You are not alone!

What to Do When Talking to Someone Who Stutters?

talking to a child

It's important to remember to be kind and follow the rule: if someone cannot help what they are doing, you need to approach them normally and give them a chance. Just be yourself and give the other person as much time as they need to speak. Remember that the main difference between a person who stutters and a person who doesn't is that the person who stutters may need some extra time to talk. If they seem self-conscious about their stuttering and apologize to you for it, show them that you are coming from a place of love and understanding. Encourage them and make it clear you do not mind their stuttering.

Be patient with the person. You may be tempted to finish sentences or fill in words but refrain from doing so unless you know the person well and have their permission, or they cannot think of a word and need your help. Although you have the best of intentions, completing another person's sentences may seem demeaning to them. There is also the chance you may guess the wrong word which will cause them to have to explain themselves, make the communication difficulties even worse, and draw more attention to their stuttering.

Make sure you refrain from comments that could seem patronizing to the other person, such as, "slow down," "take a breath," or "relax." Maintain eye contact with the person (like you would in a normal conversation with someone else) and try not to look embarrassed or alarmed. Wait patiently, smile, and make your body language open and accepting while you wait for the other person to finish talking.

Be aware the people who stutter usually have more trouble controlling their speech on the telephone. In particular, saying the word, "hello" often presents a special problem. Be extra patient in this situation and maintain a friendly demeanor. You may be curious or wonder if it is okay to ask someone questions about their stuttering. This is definitely a judgment call, and stuttering should not be considered a taboo subject. Be aware that some individuals may be sensitive about their affliction and prefer not to discuss it with anyone.

By following the rules of common courtesy and not pushing the subject when the person seems unreceptive to talking about it, you should be just fine. This can be said for anything in regards to conversing with someone who has a stutter.

A person's stuttering may sometimes make it harder to understand what they are saying. For instance, if you don't understand them, instead of trying to pretend or just smile and nod, simply say, "I'm sorry. I didn't understand what you just said," or anything along those lines. As long as you don't sound too demeaning or condescending, the person will much prefer you be honest with them rather than pretend to understand.

Let the person who is stuttering know by your body language and actions that you are listening to what is being said. A simple nod and a smile show that you hear them and are actively involved in the conversation. Make efforts to show that you are involved with what is being said, not how it's being said. Be yourself and be a good listener. Remember that people who stutter are completely normal, it may just take them a bit longer to speak. Why do people stutter is a complex set of behaviors that interfere with the production of fluent speech.

There are as many different patterns of stuttering behavior as there are people who stutter, and it's important to remember this and approach the situation with an open mind. You can never go wrong in following the rules of common courtesy.

Facts about Why Do People Stutter

Letters coming out from the man's mouth

Stuttering is generally not caused by psychological or physical trauma. It's not related to intelligence at all. Approximately four males stutter to every one female, meaning it's four times more likely to occur in men than women. Many preschoolers who show early signs of stuttering will outgrow it. However, we cannot predict who will recover spontaneously as there seems to be no observable pattern we can discern. We have, however, figured out that speech therapy at an early age can increase the likelihood that the child will recover.

There are no cures for stuttering. Speech therapy can help a person communicate effectively and make long-term changes over time. There are also countless organizations and programs that can offer support groups and allow children to be around those similar to themselves so they can perhaps learn not to be so ashamed of what they have that they cannot control. See our list under the heading "What can I do for a loved one who stutters?" We have a myriad of trusted organizations we know will be there for you and help you and your loved one learn about the condition they have and maybe even learn how to lessen it or overcome it.

Approximately 5% of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. Three-quarters of those children will recover by late childhood. Again, we have no understanding of patterns or reasons behind why some children may recover from stuttering and others may not, but thankfully most children who develop stuttering that lasts six months will grow out of it and recover by late childhood.

Talking with a child about stuttering does not cause stuttering to become more severe or persistent, although stress, anxiety, and nerves can increase a child's stuttering. Usually, however, stress and anxiety are not the root cause of stuttering as much as genetics, neurological issues, and motoric ability are. Stuttering also exists in all languages and all parts of the world and is not exclusive to English-speaking peoples.

Conclusion - Why Do People Stutter

Stuttering is a complex communication disorder that affects approximately 1% of the population, which is over 70 million people, and about three million Americans. Approximately 5% of children stutter at some point in their lives, but about three-quarters of stuttering children will outgrow stuttering by late childhood. Stuttering has surface behaviors such as elongated words, spaces in between words, or physical difficulties such as shaking legs or twitching eyes.

So why do people stutter? We are not sure other than the possibilities of genetics, neurological issues, components of language development, motoric abilities, and the temperament of the stutterer. While we may not be able to pinpoint why do people stutter, there are endless ways we can show our support and help out loved ones who are affected. In casual conversation, we can be honest in asking for clarification, keep our body language open and accepting, and practice patience and common courtesy.

There are a large number of support groups and organizations that have helpful programs to help those overcome confidence issues and learn to better control their afflictions.

We hope this article helps you understand how best to approach stuttering with an open mind and be a helpful, supportive confidence-booster to your loved one with stuttering. If you have a stutter yourself, we hope you are learning to have confidence in yourself and not let a mere speech affliction define you.

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