What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a condition where the speech production is not smooth or discontinuous. This problem can occur either in children or adults. While stuttering is not a health condition, but it may lead to a disturbed communication process.

What are the characteristics of stuttering?

Stuttering can be identified by the two main characteristics of stuttering; that are the primary and the secondary stuttering.

Primary Stuttering

Primary stuttering occurs when a person’s speech is interrupted with blocks, repetition, prolongation or interjection.

  • Blocks – occurs when speech is ‘stuck’ when a person is trying to pronounce a word. For example, when trying to say ‘ball’, a person’s lips may be sealed tightly, making it difficult to move to pronounce the word.
  • Repetition – occurs when sounds, syllables, part/ whole word is repeated several times in conversation. For example, “O-o-o-open the door “. This often occurs on the initial syllable of a word, and not on the last syllable.
  • Prolongation – occurs when a sound in a word is lengthened. For example, “Aaaaaaai (I) want baaaaall”.
  • Interjection – occurs when a person consistently add non-meaningful sound in his speech production. For example, a person add ‘aaa’ and ‘hmmm’ when saying “aaa aaa … .. I like to eat … hmmm … cake “.

Video 1 shows example of a person who suffers from stuttering and showing all the above features.

Secondary Stuttering

Secondary stuttering involves body movements that occur together with primary stuttering. For example, blinking eyes repeatedly during a stutter. Other secondary stuttering behaviors may be as follows:

  • Tapping or banging hand on a table
  •  Stomping feet
  • Twitching or flaring of nose
  • Head jerking

What are the causes of stuttering?

Up to now, the actual cause of stuttering is still not identified. However, according to research, the following factors may be the cause of stuttering:

  • Genetics
    Individuals with a family history of stuttering problems are most likely to experience the same problem.
  • Nerve damage
    Injury or damage to the nervous system caused by a stroke or accident can be the cause of stuttering, known as neurogenic stuttering.
  • Environment
    Individuals, particularly children who are exposed to other individuals who stutter (parents, siblings, relatives), tend to follow their conversational style and may stutter.
  • Stress
    Individuals who are under pressure to talk show more tendencies to stutter. For example, children often stutter when their parents push them to pronounce a certain word correctly and accurately. This causes pressure on the muscles of speech and cause stuttering.

When stuttering could be worse?

Stuttering can be more severe due to the following factors:

  • The environment
    Noisy environment is among the causes that can worsen stuttering.
  • The communication partner
    Individuals may stutter more when talking to strangers, to people of the opposite sex or to whom they are not close to. Stutter also worsens when individuals talk in front of a crowd.
  • The topic of conversation
    Topics of conversation or words that are difficult and rarely used it is more difficult for individuals who stutter. For example, the word ‘accommodations’.
  • The emotions
    The individuals’ own feelings can affect stuttering problem. Individuals who are feeling anxious, scared, excited, tired, or shocked can cause their stuttering to worsen.

What are the effects of stuttering?

Stuttering problem can have a major impact on individuals and society. The effects of stuttering are:

  • Individuals feel inferior and ashamed.
  • Avoidance to talk with strangers or public.
  • Communication becomes ineffective and information is not conveyed, due to listener’s inability to understand
  • Emotional stress or depression.

What can you do?

The problem of stuttering is a problem that can be helped with speech therapy. If you, your child or your family members suffer from this problem, you can get a referral and an appointment to meet the Speech-Language Therapist in nearest available hospitals

How to distinguish between stuttering problem with Normal Dysfluencies?



Normal Dysfluencies

Age Problem begins after the age of three years and six months Problem occurs between age two to five years old
Frequency Frequent and more severe over the time Occasionally
Duration Continuous until six months, one year or more Only for a few weeks
Repetition of syllable or word Repeat more than twice
“P-p-p-put it here”
Repeat once or twice only
“B-b-big ball”
Intonation Tone of voice rises with more repetitions No change in the tone of voice
Secondary behavior Seem difficult to talk, such as blinking eye or distorting mouth Not show difficulty to talk


  1. Lebrun, Y., & Van carousel, J. (1990) Final sound repetitions. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 15, 107-113.
  2. Mayo Clinic. 2012. Risk Factors For Stuttering. Retrieved September 4, 2012 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stuttering
  3. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 1997. Retrieved September 4, 2012 from http://www.asha.org
  4. The British Stammering Association. 2000. Retrieved September 4, 2012 from http://www.stammering.org
  5. The Stuttering Foundation. 2008. If You Think Your Child Is Stuttering. Retrieved September 4, 2012 from http://www.stutteringhelp.org
Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer / Translator : Raphidah bt. Rusly
Accreditor / Reviewer : Nadwah bt. Onwi