Predicting Persistent Developmental Stuttering Using a Cumulative Risk Approach

Cara M. Singer, Sango Otieno, Soo Eun Chang, Robin M. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore how well a cumulative risk approach, based on empirically supported predictive factors, predicts whether a young child who stutters is likely to develop persistent developmental stuttering. In a cumulative risk approach, the number of predictive factors indicating a child is at risk to develop persistent stuttering is evaluated, and a greater number of indicators of risk are hypothesized to confer greater risk of persistent stuttering. Method: We combined extant data on 3-to 5-year-old children who stutter from two longitudinal studies to identify cutoff values for continuous predictive factors (e.g., speech and language skills, age at onset, time since onset, stuttering frequency) and, in combination with binary predictors (e.g., sex, family history of stuttering), used all-subsets regression and receiver operating characteristic curves to compare the predictive validity of different combinations of 10 risk factors. The optimal combination of predictive factors and the odds of a child developing persistent stuttering based on an increasing number of factors were calculated. Results: Based on 67 children who stutter (i.e., 44 persisting and 23 recovered) with relatively strong speech-language skills, the predictive factor model that yielded the best predictive validity was based on time since onset (≥ 19 months), speech sound skills (≤ 115 standard score), expressive language skills (≤ 106 standard score), and stuttering severity (≥ 17 Stuttering Severity Instrument total score). When the presence of at least two predictive factors was used to confer elevated risk to develop persistent stuttering, the model yielded 93% sensitivity and 65% specificity. As a child presented with a greater number of these four risk factors, the odds for persistent stuttering increased. Conclusions: Findings support the use of a cumulative risk approach and the predictive utility of assessing multiple domains when evaluating a child’s risk of developing persistent stuttering. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-95
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

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© 2021 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.


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