The influence of caregiver perception and child perspective taking on the communication attitudes of young children who stutter



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Stuttering typically begins between ages two through six years during significant speech, language, and social cognitive development. As young as two years old, children develop an awareness of and react negatively to their stuttering. Concurrently, caregivers experience adverse cognitive, emotional, and behavioral reactions to their child’s stuttering and report a negative impact of stuttering on their caregiver-child relationship. Although adults report the adverse consequences of their stuttering began in early childhood, markedly few studies have explored contributions to psychosocial and emotional components of stuttering in young children. One previous study suggests caregivers of older children who stutter (ages 7-12 years) overestimate how negatively their child feels about their communication. To date, no study has investigated if caregiver perception of their young child’s communication attitude accurately reflects their child’s attitude. Additionally, although children begin to distinguish others’ thoughts and feelings from their own (i.e., cognitive and affective perspective taking) prior to and throughout typical stuttering onset, no study to date has investigated social cognition as a possible influence on caregiver-child communication attitude agreement. This dissertation is comprised of three specific aims investigating caregiver perception of their young child who stutters’ communication attitude and the effects of cognitive/affective perspective taking on caregiver-child communication attitude agreement. A representative sample of caregiver-child dyads (N = 113) in the United States participated in virtual speech-language evaluations for stuttering that included methods for assessing caregiver perceptions and child perspective taking. Multiple regression was used to evaluate moderators on the potential relationship between child reported communication attitude and a caregiver proxy rating (Aim 1) and to investigate the potential influence of cognitive perspective taking (Aim 2) or affective perspective taking (Aim 3) on caregiver-child communication attitude agreement. Results suggest caregivers who report less caregiver-child conflict more accurately perceive their child’s communication attitude. Neither caregiver confidence in their perception nor stuttering severity influenced the relationship between caregiver perception and child-reported communication attitude. Cognitive and affective perspective taking did not predict caregiver-child communication attitude agreement; however, children’s articulation ability did. Clinical implications for speech-language pathologists working with young children who stutter and their caregivers and future directions are discussed.


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