This question comes up fairly regularly, and because so little is understood about the definitive cause of stuttering, it’s often difficult to know why it is more common among males.
What we do know about stuttering is that it affects 1% of the population – an amount that sounds small, but really isn’t. In fact this means that there are almost 15,000 people who stutter in Auckland alone – that’s quite a lot of people actually!
Beyond this hard fact, there is a lot about stuttering that is not known for certain. It is thought that it is a disorder that is rooted in the neural processing area of the brain that controls speech production. There is often a genetic link, with stuttering running in families, and it is also more common in children. Many children who stutter as pre-schoolers will grow out of it without any help, others will need therapy to help with their stutter, and then there are those who will continue to stutter throughout their lives.
Something that we do know is that stuttering is statistically more common among males, although it is not fully understood why. Stuttering affects men four times more than it affects women, which is a pretty big difference.
It has long been suspected that the number of female adults who stutter is significantly lower because they have a higher chance of natural recovery at a young age – this seems to be supported by research done by the University of Illinois Stuttering Research Program. This research showed that girls were more likely to naturally recover or grow out of stuttering without therapy (although this was not the case with every child), whereas boys were less likely to. This clearly indicates the importance of seeking therapy as soon as possible to assess the risks and likelihood of future chronic stuttering.
Stuttering that is genetic (because not all cases are genetic) is also more likely to confirm the gender bias, whereas those cases which are not related to genetics have less of a gender disparity. Another interesting statistic to acknowledge is “for men who stuttered, 9% of their daughters and 22% of their sons will be stutterers; while for the fewer women who ever stuttered the risks are higher, as 17% of their daughters and 36% of their sons will be affected.”
Although there is no hard evidence to tell us why males are more likely to stutter, what we do know is that early access to treatment is the best way to ensure your child – boy or girl – is able to have their stuttering assessed by a trained professional who can advise you on future steps.
If your child is stuttering – web-browsing and asking friends what to do may cause more stress and confusion than need be; it is best you seek professional advice first on where to go from here.