What Causes Stuttering?

Parents and others often ask the question "what causes stuttering?". The answer is unfortunately complicated and no single precise factor has been identified as the cause. Genetics is recognised as playing a role and it is often the case that there is a family history of the disorder. That being said, not everyone who is predisposed to the disorder (meaning for example they have a family history that might suggest they are more likely to stutter) will develop the condition. Therefore genetics is not the only factor.

In addition to genetics it is also believed that children who stutter may have difficulty with certain physical processes and control when speaking. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with the way their oral structures are formed, but rather more about the child's ability to use these structures and get what they want to say from their brains, to their speech organs and out in a smooth way! The nature of this difficulty is not yet fully understood.

In many cases, particular events or developmental milestones are thought to “trigger” dysfluency. For example, between the ages of two and five years children develop grammar skills and learn many of the grammatical rules of language. With this comes the production of longer and more complex phrases and sentences. For example, a child may go from saying “mum car”, to “mum let’s go for a ride in the car”. While the child may be able to speak fluently when using only one or two words, they might find it more challenging to get what they want to say out smoothly when sentences are longer.

Once a child starts to become dysfluent or stutter, there are a number of other factors that may cause the difficulties with speech to increase. For example, if the child is frustrated, angry or excited they may stutter more frequently. Similarly, if they were teased at school this may make the situation worse.

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