Public Opinions About Stuttering

Emily Aten and Rachel Masters

The ASHA Leader, “A Global Project to Measure Public Attitudes About Stuttering”


Who and What:

¨       A 1999 Task Force consisting of research and policy-oriented SLPs, people who stutter, and an epidemiologist convened to develop the first prototype of a questionnaire to measure attitudes toward stuttering –Public Opinion Survey of Human Attributes (POSHA-E)

¨       Samples a variety of beliefs, reactions, behaviors, and emotions that would identify societal ignorance, stigma, and /or discrimination

¨       Considerable attention was has been paid to validity, reliability, standardization, and user-friendliness

¨       Reduces response bias by not stating specifically that stuttering is the targeted attribute

¨       Designed to minimize cultural and linguistic bias (translated to other languages, cross-culture standardization)



¨       Asks questions about one’s overall impressions (very negative, somewhat negative, neutral, somewhat positive, very positive, not sure) of a person who is in one of nine categories: left-handed, mentally ill, obese, addicted to alcohol, has a stuttering disorder, is multilingual, has epilepsy, has HIV/AIDS, uses a wheelchair

¨       Asks the question, “I would want to be a person who…(fits in one of those nine categories)”

¨       Follow-up questions ask, “People who stutter are 1) nervous or excitable, 2) dangerous to others, 3) can raise a family” (agree, disagree, not sure)



¨       More than 1200 adults have completed the questionnaire in 11 countries (Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Denmark, Nepal, Nicaragua, Macedonia, South Africa, Turkey, and the U.S.) using 7 different languages (English, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Portuguese, Turkish, French, and Spanish)

¨       Stuttering was rated under conditions respondents would not want to have or be

¨       Most respondents believe that people who stutter can lead normal lives and could communicate effectively, but were less optimistic about whether they should work in jobs requiring a great deal of talking

¨       An unsubstantiated stereotype holds that people who stutter are nervous, shy, and fearful

¨       If they found themselves talking to someone who stutters, most people would wait patiently and ignore the stuttering

¨       Most people were not likely to joke about stuttering

¨       As a whole, people around the world perceive stuttering almost as negatively as mental illness and obesity, but more negatively that wheelchair use


Perceptual and Motor Skills, “Stereotypes toward stuttering for those who have never had direct contact with people who stutter: a randomized and stratified study”


Who and What:

¨       Study conducted in New South Wales, Australia

¨       Purpose: to conduct a study of beliefs toward stuttering held by those who have never had direct contact with people who stutter because people who stutter are believed to be susceptible to negative stereotypes and social stigma

¨       Additional purpose: to provide data that may assist in overcoming commonly held misconceptions and negative stereotypes



¨       Telephone interviews

                  -Began with a brief statement of purpose

                  -definition of stuttering (repetitions of syllables, part-or-whole words or phrases; prolongations                 or speech; or blocking of sounds)

                  -associated symptoms such as embarrassment and anxiety were discussed

                  -demonstrations of repetitions and blocks were provided if requested

                  -15 items with response choices of yes, no, or unsure



¨       Negative beliefs (were not associated with discrimination or prejudicial attitudes)

                  -people who stutter were mostly believes to be shy, anxious, self-conscious, and lack confidence

                  -most people were ignorant of the causes of stuttering

¨       Positive beliefs

                  -most people who not avoid a person who stutters and would not be embarrassed to talk to a              person who stutters

                  -most people believed that a person who stutters could be employed in a responsible position,   even those requiring speech skills

                  -most people believe that a person who stutters would be interesting and would have at least       average intelligence

                  -most people believe that stuttering can be treated effectively

¨       Results suggest that further effort to educate people could offset misconceptions


Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, “Sociodynamic relationships between children who stutter and their non-stuttering classmates”


Who and What:

¨       University College London, UK

¨       Purpose: to examine the acceptance of children who stutter by their peers



¨       Each child was shown the class list and asked to pick the three classmates (s)he liked most and the three classmates (s)he liked least

¨       Children were then asked to put three children from the class into each of the following eight behavioral descriptions: shy, assertive, cooperative, disruptive, leader, uncertain, bully, bully victim



¨       Based on the children’s responses, each child was classified into a social group: popular, rejected, neglected, controversial, average, other

                  -Overall, children who stutter are regarded more negatively with respect to social status

¨       Based on the children’s responses, each child was assigned to a behavioral category

                  -Children who do not stutter were almost twice as likely to be nominated as leaders than children              who stutter

                  -Considerably more children who stutter were bully victims than were children who do not     stutter

¨       The allocation of behavioral category or social status does not depend on severity of stuttering

¨       There is a trend for children who stutter to be nominated to behavioral categories that reflect vulnerability and inadequacy

¨       Children who stutter are significantly more at risk of being bullied, rejected, and/or neglected in the social environment