A behavioral study of emotional reactivity and emotion regulation in preschool-age children who stutter
The purpose of this study was to experimentally investigate the behavioral correlates of emotional reactivity and emotion regulation and their relation to speech (dis)fluency in preschool-age children who do (CWS) and do not (CWNS) stutter during emotion-eliciting laboratory procedures. Participants (18 CWS, 14 boys; 18 CWNS, 14 boys) completed a neutral (“apples and leaves in a transparent box,” ALTB) and a frustrating (“attractive toy in a transparent box,” ATTB) task, both of which were followed by a narrative task. Dependent measures were emotional reactivity (positive affect, negative affect) and emotion regulation (self-speech, off-task) exhibited during the ALTB and the ATTB tasks, and percentage of stuttering-like disfluencies (SLDs) and percentage of other disfluencies (ODs) produced during the narratives. Results indicated that CWS, when compared to CWNS, exhibited more negative emotion and more self-speech. For CWS only, emotion regulation behaviors (i.e., off-task, self-speech) were predictive of stuttering-like disfluencies produced during the subsequent narrative tasks. Furthermore, for CWS there was no relation between emotional processes and other (i.e., non-stuttered) disfluencies, but for CWNS negative affect was related to other disfluencies. Findings from this study provide support for the notion that preschool-age CWS are more emotionally reactive than CWNS and that even though CWS seem to exhibit more self-speech regulatory behaviors than CWNS, these attempts might not be very effective in modulating their emotions. Furthermore, findings indicate that for preschool-age CWS, stuttering-like disfluencies, unlike non-stuttered disfluencies, are influenced by emotion regulatory processes, but results suggest a differential mechanism underlying the production of non-stuttered disfluencies by preschool-age CWS and CWNS. Overall, findings from this study support the notion that emotional processes are associated with childhood stuttering and likely contribute to the difficulties that at least some CWS have establishing normally fluent speech.