Stuttering more common in bilingual children

Researchers in Britain say children who are bilingual before the age of 5 are far more likely to stutter and also find it harder to lose their impediment.

The researchers from University College London say bilingualism before the age of 5 has a significant effect on stuttering compared to children who speak only one language before this age.

The researchers looked at 317 children living in Greater London who were referred for stutter when they were aged between 8 and 10 - all had started school in the UK at the age of 4 or 5.

Information from the children's carers established whether a language other than English was spoken exclusively or combined with English at home and it was found that just over one in five (69) of the children spoke English and a second language at home and 38 had to learn English as one or more family members did not speak English at home.

Of those 38 children, fifteen spoke only one language other than English before the age of 5, while 23 spoke their family's native language as well as English before this age and 31 children stuttered in both languages.

Boys outnumbered girls by 4 to 1 and the stuttering began at around the age of 4.5 years.

When they were compared with a group of children who did not stutter it was seen that three quarters of them were exclusive speakers of a language other than English at home and only a quarter spoke two languages.

The recovery rate was also seen to be higher among children who exclusively spoke one language other than English at home.

Over half of children who either spoke only their native language at home up to the age of 5, or who spoke only English, had stopped stuttering by the age of 12, when they were reassessed, compared to only one in four of those children speaking two languages up to this age.

The researchers say while there was no difference in school performance between children who stuttered, they suggest that children whose native language is not English may benefit from deferring the time when they learn it, as this could reduce the chance of starting to stutter and aids the chances of recovery later in childhood.

The study is published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

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