Listener attitudes towards stuttering: divergence in gender
Schroeder, Laura Beth
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This study evaluated the attitudes of college students towards people who stutter. The study investigated the presence of a difference in attitude held by college students towards stuttering male and female speakers when compared to nonstuttering male and female speakers. The primary purpose of this investigation was to determine listener rating differences between fluent and stuttering speakers and whether there is a difference in attitude between male and female listeners when rating an individual who stutters. It w as hypothesized that male raters would hold significantly more negative attitudes towards people who stutter than female raters. In research conducted during the past 50 years, it has been established that there are more negative attitudes held towards people who stutter than fluent speakers by groups of individuals such as parents, teachers, and speech-language pathologists. While there has been no evidence to support the claim that people who stutter (PWS) differ from people who do not stutter (PWNS) in their levels of intelligence, personality, physical, or sociologic characteristics, many people continue to hold negative attitudes, or predisposed emotions, towards people who stutter. There has been little research to study whether differences in attitudes may exist between men and women. Studies by Burley and Rinaldi (1986), Patterson and Pring (1991), and Weisel and Spektor (1998) have examined gender differences and found conflicting results. Responses to an attitude questionnaire from 160 subjects, including 80 males and 80 females, were analyzed after they viewed and judged videotapes of one speaker in a fluent or nonfluent condition. The 160 participants ranged in age from 18 to 30 (mean = 21.056; SD = 2.585) and were recruited from classrooms at Texas Tech University. Subjects \%ere selected from undergraduate courses because of their representation from all majors, genders, ethnicity, and income levels at Texas Tech University. Two subjects, one male and one female, recorded the videotaped samples. The two subjects appearing in the videotaped samples were also between the ages of 18 and 30 years (mean = 20.5; SD - .101) with no known speech, psychological, neurological, or developmental problems and were recruited from Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Due to the fact that both individuals in the videotapes did not stutter, the two speakers were first taught about stuttered speech and then provided the opportunity to practice stuttering prior to creating the stuttered videotapes. The 160 judges were divided equally into four groups to view the four videotapes. Judges were asked to first view the videotape and then complete a seven-point attitude questionnaire similar to that developed by Burley and Rinaldi (1986) about the speaker. Results from this study indicated that females have a more positive attitude towards all speakers, stuttering or fluent, than do males. However, there was no evidence that people who stutter are viewed more negatively than fluent speakers, and no attitude differences based on gender of the speaker or rater were noted. This finding may have clinical applications in the counseling and treatment aspects for individuals who stutter.