Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book on choral singing and stuttering.

I found a wikipedia entry for Who Asked the First Question? The Origins of Human Choral Singing, Intelligence, Language and Speech, a book authored by Joseph Jordania, a ethnomusicologist and evolutionary musicologis. Part of the book deals with stuttering:

Cross-cultural studies of stuttering and dyslexia

Cross-cultural studies of the stuttering prevalence is widely discussed in the book. It is claimed that there is a positive correlation between the presence of choral singing traditions and the higher prevalence of stuttering in a population. The book surveys the existing literature on the cross-cultural study of stuttering and it is suggested that on one hand European and particularly Sub-Saharan African populations have higher stuttering prevalence, and on another hand Native American, Australian Aboriginal and East Asian populations have much lower stuttering prevalence. Cross-cultural studies were very active in early and middle of the 20th century, particularly under the influence of the works of Wendell Johnson, who claimed that the onset of stuttering was connected to the cultural expectations and the pressure put on young children by anxious parents. Johnson claimed there were cultures where stuttering, and even the word "stutterer", were absent (for example, among some tribes of Native Americans). Later studies found that this claim was not supported by the facts, so the influence of cultural factors in stuttering research declined. It is generally accepted by contemporary scholars that stuttering is present in every culture and in every race, although the attitude towards the actual prevalence differs. Some believe stuttering occurs in all cultures and races at similar rates, about 1% of general population (and is about 5% among young children) all around the world. A US-based study indicated that there were no racial or ethnic differences in the incidence of stuttering in preschool children.[3][4] At the same time, there are cross-cultural studies indicating that the difference between cultures may exist. For example, summarizing prevalence studies, E. Cooper and C. Cooper conclude: “On the basis of the data currently available, it appears the prevalence of fluency disorders varies among the cultures of the world, with some indications that the prevalence of fluency disorders labeled as stuttering is higher among black populations than white or Asian populations” [5]
Different regions of the world are researched very unevenly. Understandably, the largest number of studies had been conducted in European countries and in North America, where the experts agree on the mean estimate to be about 1% of the general population (Bloodtein, 1995. A Handbook on Stuttering). African populations, particularly from West Africa, might have the highest stuttering prevalence in the world—reaching in some populations 5%, 6% and even over 9%.[6] Many regions of the world are not researched sufficiently, and for some major regions there are no prevalence studies at all (for example, in China). Some claim the reason for this might be a lower incidence in general population in China.[7] Jordania suggested that the differences in stuttering prevalence may have a genetic basis


Anonymous said...

This subject is very interesting, as big part of speech pathologists believe that stuttering rate is the same everywhere, and only a minor part believe that there are substantial differences in the rate of stuttering in different populations. Those who believe the rate is same everywhere, unfortunately, are not interested in cross-cultural studies. After asking people from different cultural background for many years about stuttering, I found that the differences in the incidence are absolutely huge. For example, you will find that a huge number of people from sub-Saharan populations had a stuttering problems (many have it as adults as well). On the other hand, you can hardly find a stuttering individual among the Chinese, or among Native Americans. Unfortunately, most of the "serious" speech pathologists are not interested to examine these cultural differences, instead they try to explain the published data on the existing differences by different methodologies used by different speech pathologists in different populations. But how come that experts, almost educated in Western Universities, always make the same "mistakes": they exaggerate the number of stutterers in sub-Saharan Africa (and African Americans), and grossly underestimate the number of stutterers among American Indians and Chinese populations. Fearing to face facts has never helped anyone in finding the real causes of any phenomena. I very much hope that many professional speech pathologists will read this blog and comment from their own experience on this topic.

Anonymous said...

I googled the topic as I am a Speech Pathologist working in the school system but have also had experience with an adult outpatient setting. Anecdotally, I have now seen several Asian (Japanese) males who have stuttered which led me to try to see if any cross-cultural studies have been done. Based on internet research, it would appear my experience has been coincidental. I will note that the Asian parents with whom I have spoken do not seem overly concerned and are quite accepting of their child's developmental dysfluencies (which is what I want from them) which would lead me to believe that cultural expectations are not at play. The adult males (small sample population of 3) have all had jobs where they don't need to engage in public speaking and have tried a variety of therapies. Also, it could be that since I live in Southern California and the location that I was working in had a higher Asian population that it was simply that the local population influenced my perception. So, no answers but food for thought!