Emotional diathesis, emotional stress and childhood stuttering
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to empirically assess whether preschool-age CWS’s emotional diathesis (vulnerability), emotional stress, and their interaction are associated with these children’s stuttered disfluencies and whether those associations are mediated by sympathetic arousal (the latter indexed by tonic skin conductance level, SCL). Method: Participants were 49 preschool-age CWS (38 male). Each participant was exposed to relatively neutral (i.e., baseline), positive and negative emotion-inducing child-appropriate video clips and then performed age-appropriate narrative tasks. Measurement of participants’ emotional diatheses (e.g., emotional reactivity) was based on parents’ report (i.e., Children’s Behavior Questionnaires, CBQ), with their percentage of stuttered disfluencies and sympathetic arousal (i.e., SCL) measured during a narrative after viewing each baseline, positive and negative video clip. Results: Among the salient findings, the first finding indicated that preschool-age CWS’s positive emotional reactivity was significantly positively associated with their percentage of stuttered disfluencies regardless of emotion stress condition. The second finding indicated that preschool-age CWS’s negative emotional reactivity was more positively correlated with their percentage of stuttered disfluencies during narratives after positive, compared to baseline, emotion stress condition. The third finding indicated that preschool-age CWS’s mean length of utterances (MLU) was positively associated with their positive emotional reactivity as well as percentage of stuttered disfluencies. Conclusions: Findings addressed ‘whether’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ the association of emotional processes and stuttering exists for preschool-age CWS. Regarding ‘whether’ the relation exists, the first finding suggests that such an association exists, at least for positive emotional reactivity. Relative to ‘when’ the relation exists, the second finding suggests that preschool-age CWS’s negative emotional reactivity is more associated with their percentage of stuttered disfluencies under positive, compared to baseline, emotional stress. In terms of ‘how’ emotional processes impacts childhood stuttering, the third finding was cautiously taken to suggest that positive emotional reactivity is associated with stuttering through MLU, rather than sympathetic arousal. Overall, present findings appear to support the notion that emotional processes play a role and that emotion warrants inclusion in any truly comprehensive account of childhood stuttering.