Will Education About Biological Causes of Stuttering Reduce Stigma? As strong evidence accumulates, professionals increasingly are using biological causes to explain the occurrence of stuttering. Many professionals view biological explanations as having the potential to be stigma-reducing for people who stutter. However, some researchers have theorized that biological attributions could increase stigma by making the person seem more fundamentally ... Article
Article  |   December 09, 2016
Will Education About Biological Causes of Stuttering Reduce Stigma?
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Michael P. Boyle
    Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Montclair State University, Bloomfield, NJ
  • Disclosures
    Disclosures ×
  • Financial: Michael P. Boyle is an assistant professor at Montclair State University.
    Financial: Michael P. Boyle is an assistant professor at Montclair State University.×
  • Nonfinancial: Michael P. Boyle has previously published in this topic area. Some of those works are cited in this paper.
    Nonfinancial: Michael P. Boyle has previously published in this topic area. Some of those works are cited in this paper.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Fluency Disorders / Part 2
Article   |   December 09, 2016
Will Education About Biological Causes of Stuttering Reduce Stigma?
Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, December 2016, Vol. 1, 70-78. doi:10.1044/persp1.SIG4.70
History: Received March 22, 2016 , Accepted May 6, 2016
Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, December 2016, Vol. 1, 70-78. doi:10.1044/persp1.SIG4.70
History: Received March 22, 2016; Accepted May 6, 2016

As strong evidence accumulates, professionals increasingly are using biological causes to explain the occurrence of stuttering. Many professionals view biological explanations as having the potential to be stigma-reducing for people who stutter. However, some researchers have theorized that biological attributions could increase stigma by making the person seem more fundamentally different from others, and propagating the belief that the person's condition is more resistant to change. In this paper, I review different theoretical positions for the relationship between biological attributions for disorders and stigma, as well as research findings in support of those theories. In addition, research on the implications of biological attributions for self-stigma and public stigma experienced by people who stutter will be reviewed. From the review of the literature, it is determined that biological explanations for stuttering do not reduce stigma relative to providing no explanation at all. However, providing a biological explanation can result in less blame towards people who stutter, relative to receiving a psychobehavioral explanation. Biological explanations appear to lead to increased prognostic pessimism relative to psychobehavioral explanations. This paper is concluded with applications of how these data can inform future education efforts to reduce the stigma associated with stuttering.

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