Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Speech, Language and Hearing Science

First Advisor

Hope Gerlach

Second Advisor

Laura DeThorne


Purpose: Research has shown that there are benefits associated with verbal disclosure of stuttering. However, most of the existing literature on stuttering disclosure has focused on how it affects listener perceptions of people who stutter, and little is known about speaker-focused outcomes of verbal stuttering disclosure. The purpose of the current study was to investigate who people who stutter verbally disclose to (e.g. friends, co-workers, neighbors) and if relationships between extent of disclosure and distress vary depending on the confidant’s social referent group. The seven social referent groups of focus were family, friends, romantic partners, people in the workplace, healthcare providers, other community members, and neighbors.

Methods: A secondary analysis of data from an online survey with 506 adults who stutter was conducted. In order to be included in the survey, the participants had to be at least 18 years old, living in the United States or Canada, and identify as a person who stutters. The main variables of interest were extent of disclosure to seven social referent groups and psychological distress (which refers to combined symptoms of anxiety and depression). Descriptive statistics and regression were performed to determine the extent that adults who stutter disclose to various social referent groups, as well as whether verbally disclosing to certain social referent groups predicted psychological distress.

Results: There were no significant differences in extent of verbal stuttering disclosure to various social referent groups. However, descriptive trends suggest that adults who stutter may be more likely to disclose stuttering within more intimate social relationships (e.g., to friends, family, and romantic partners). Extent of disclosure to romantic partners was the only social referent group that significantly predicted psychological distress, such that adults who stutter who disclosed to more of their romantic partners reported lower levels of distress.

Conclusions: The two main findings from this study provide preliminary evidence for associations between level of intimacy with disclosure confidants, the likelihood of verbal disclosure, and psychological distress. Both speech-language pathologists and people who stutter should be aware that adults who stutter were descriptively more likely to disclose to more intimate social referent groups, and extent of disclosure to one of the most intimate social referent groups (romantic partners) predicted psychological distress. These findings should be considered when recommending disclosure as a therapeutic technique with people who stutter.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Thesis Presentation.pdf (7261 kB)
Defense Presentation