Coping responses by adults who stutter, Part 2

This article is a summary and review, of the following article:
Article: Coping responses by adults who stutter: Part 2. Approaching the problem and achieving agency
From the Journal of Fluency Disorders, Vol. 34, 2009, 87-107
Authors: Laura W. Plexico, Walter H. Manning, Heidi Levitt

The primary purpose of this study was to understand the range of speakers’ coping responses to the stress of stuttering. Also pertinent was the impact that these various responses have on one’s daily life.


Seven men and two women were recruited as participants, diverse in age and backgrounds, but all people who were coping with stuttering. They were asked a series of questions during interviews to determine what they were coping with and how well they are coping. The interviews were taperecorded and transcribed, and the data was analyzed and categorized.

This paper is the second of two parts. The first part investigated how people who stutter seek to protect both themselves from listeners’ reactions to their stuttering, and the listener from experiencing discomfort because of the stuttering. This resulted in emotion-based coping methods that involved avoidance and withdrawal. The second part of the research, presented here,  looks at the characteristics of self-focused and action oriented coping responses. This response involves moving towards a more cognitive based approach where the speaker focuses on his or her own needs, and not worry about what the listener is thinking.

Coping with stress

For some PWS the impact caused by stuttering in their lives is minimal, for others it is debilitating. Some choose therapy and some don’t, some confront the problem head-on and others withdraw and escape. This article quotes studies that show few adults actually seek treatment and many who do drop out. So how do PWS cope, if it is not generally through therapy? The two parts to this paper seek to identify a pattern of coping responses.

Approach vs. Avoidance

One thing that influences which coping mechanism a person uses is the extent to which they feel they have control over things in his/her life. This is called “locus of control”. Those who tend to see their fates determined by outside forces will not have much faith that they can do things to remedy their situation. Those who feel that they have the power to control their own lives would also, as stutterers, see themselves as capable of attaining a degree of fluency.

The cognitive based approach to dealing with a problem is more analytical, and involves defining the problem, weighing solutions, and seeking a course of action. This is quite different from the more emotional approach where the subject worries more about what others think than his/her own needs and tends to avoid stressful situations.

The research distinguishes between “short-term” and “long-term” stressors. A “short-term” stressor is a unique situation that arises sporadically, such as giving directions to a cab driver. In this case, an emotional decision may be the best course of action. But if the person had to frequently take taxis (long-term stressor) then avoidance becomes a dysfunctional response and leads to escapism, self-blame and disengagement.

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