A RECENT WA-based study has found that children who stutter (CWS) show significantly lower attachment to their parents, particularly in relation to trust, than their fluent peers.
Researchers from Curtin University and the Australian Neuro-Muscular Research Institute attribute this to parents of CWS perceiving their children to have higher difficulties and therefore taking a greater role in their children’s communication.
“The majority of young participants reported feeling frustrated with the nature in which their parents attempted to assist in managing stuttering episodes,” says Dr Janet Beilby of Curtin’s School of Psychology and Speech Pathology.
“These experiences may have been interpreted as their parents being controlling given that children with communication difficulties reported having higher disciplinary standards than their peers.
“Children who stutter reported frustration not only in the ways their parents attempted to shape their fluency, but also how they interfaced with the community in managing intimate information.
“For example, most recounted it was their mother who informed their teacher of their stuttering. Overall they wanted more autonomy in decision making, including information sharing.”
Researchers found no significant differences in parenting styles.
They also discovered little difference in peer attachment. The majority of CWS reported that their friends were aware of their stutter, but were not unduly bothered by it.
Many even expressed appreciation for their friends’ attempts to help with fluency, in stark contrast to the frustration they felt toward their parents for the same behaviour.
The study involved 20 children aged between eight and 14 and their parents. Stutter severity was determined by speech pathologists who rated recorded interviews on a minimum of 2000 syllables with at least 15 minutes of real time accrued speech.
Quantitative analysis was done using The Parental Bonding Instrument, the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment – Revised questionnaire and a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.
Qualitative analysis was done through individual interviews.
While the study reveals some surprising findings, researchers note its limitations and suggest the need for a more in-depth longitudinal study across the developmental span.
They also suggest revisiting the therapy dynamic.
“Clinical management of children who stutter needs to include interactions between parent and child,” says Dr Beilby.
“Given the pervasive influence parents have on their children, empowering them to recognise the potential impact their actions have on their child is an important aspect of the therapeutic process.”
Findings were published as ‘Parenting styles and attachment in school-aged children who stutter’ in the Journal of Communication Disorders.