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Why kids start stuttering when their sibling is born.

Posted Jan 08 2007 12:00am
I often hear people who stutter, family members, and therapists say that s/he started stuttering when their younger sibling was born. The same happened to me. So does this mean the birth of a younger sibling causes or encouraged stuttering. Should I blame my brother?

The solution is relatively simple: it's a statistical illusion but it is true!! A significant number of people who stutter started stuttering when their sibling was born. However the reason is rather mundane. Kids start to stuttering around 2.5 to 4 years of age when they start using grammar instead of just words. AND at the same time the most likely age difference between you and your younger sibling is about 2-3 years! Babies take 9 months to produce (as you probably know?), then parents are busy feeding the infant, and don't think about you-know-what-I-mean. After 2 years, they kind of forget what trouble and pain you were as an infant, and just remember your cute smile. And then your younger sibling comes along.

To summarise, due to the accidental fact that both the onset of stuttering and the age difference is three years, there is a high probability that stuttering kids have a younger sibling when they started stuttering!

Another way of looking at this effect is to ask: So if a younger sibling causes stuttering, why did not all the million other kids that have younger siblings start stuttering???

The answer is: They don't because there is no casual relationship. (At least not to first order, I still leave the option open that the arrival of a younger sibling and the "relative" neglect of the older child might aggravate stuttering and but not start it.)
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