Stuttering is a speech pattern in which a person hesitates over their words, frequently repeating the first syllable of a word or repeating a word. Frequent stuttering can indicate a speech pathology.

What is Stuttering?

Most people stutter from time to time, and stuttering is particularly common when people are nervous or unsure of themselves. Young children periodically stutter as they learn to speak. An example of a stuttering speech pattern might look like this: “I want t-t-t-t-to go to the st-st-st-store.” Some stutterers tend to stumble only over certain words or syllables, but stuttering patterns can also appear random.

What Causes Stuttering?

When stuttering is common enough to interfere with normal speech, it is classified as a speech disorder. Stuttering tends to run in families, which could indicate a genetic or parental modeling cause. It is common during childhood, particularly in the early toddler years as children learn to speak. PubMed Health estimates that 5 percent of children stutter at some point during childhood. For most children, the stuttering goes away on its own, but for some, the stuttering remains a problem.

Stuttering can also be caused by brain injuries such as a stroke. Rarely it may be caused by psychological trauma.

How is Stuttering Treated?

Speech therapy can be highly effective at treating stuttering, particularly when interventions are early and a child does not feel pathologized. A speech pathologist helps children learn new speech patterns and helps them practice saying words without stuttering. Lifestyle changes can also help. For example, parents who do not pressure their children and who model slow, deliberate speech patterns may be able to help their children improve stuttering. For a small portion of stutterers, the problem will persist into adulthood.


  1. A.D.A.M. Editor Board. (2012, June 12). Stuttering. PubMed Health. Retrieved from
  2. Harwood, R., Miller, S. A., & Vasta, R. (2008). Child psychology: Development in a changing society. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Last Updated: 08-26-2015

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