Electronic Theses and Dissertations

The Subjective Experience of Stuttering

Christopher Constantino

Data is provided by the student.


In this dissertation, I investigate the subjective experience of stuttering. I use two distinct methodologies to look at two different aspects of the stuttering experience. In the first paper, I use a post-structural qualitative research methodology to better understand the experience of passing as fluent. In the second paper, I use the experience sampling method to quantify the mental and physical effort, what I call spontaneity, of stuttered speech.When a person who stutters can hide their stuttering to the extent that others do not know they stutter, they are said to pass as fluent. In the first paper I seek a more nuanced understanding of passing by asking how a person must relate to herself to pass as fluent. To answer this question, I utilize the ethical theories of philosopher Michel Foucault to contextualize data obtained from semi-structured interviews with nine participants who pass as fluent. The data suggests that rather than a repression of an authentic self, passing is more usefully understood as a form of resistance by people who stutter to a hostile society. Participants learned from experiences of delegitimization that their stuttering had ethical ramifications. Consequently, they used a variety of self-forming practices to pass and thereby achieve the privileges that come with perceived able-bodiedness.The second study measures spontaneity of speech in everyday speaking situations. Spontaneous speech is characterized by little premeditation, effortless production, and is enjoyable/meaningful. Attention is not directed on the physical production of speech. This is the first study to attempt to measure the concept of spontaneity of speech. The experience sampling method was used with 44 people who stutter. They were surveyed five times a day for one week through their cell phones. Results indicate that spontaneity and fluency vary by context and day. Importantly, an increase in spontaneity significantly decreases the impact of stuttering on peoples lives. Fluency did not significantly affect life impact of stuttering. This suggests that therapies that increase fluency without accompanying increases in spontaneity may fail to improve quality of life for people who stutter.