Phonological and Semantic Contributions to Verbal Short-Term Memory in Young Children With Developmental Stuttering

Purpose The purpose of this study was to examine the verbal short-term memory skills of children who stutter (CWS) and children who do not stutter (CWNS) in 2 experiments, focusing on the influence of phonological and semantic similarity. Method Participants were 42 CWS and 42 CWNS between the ages of 3;0 and 5;11 (years;months). In Experiment 1, children completed the phonological similarity task, in which they listened to lists of phonologically similar and dissimilar words and then repeated them when signaled to do so. In Experiment 2, children completed another forward span task, the semantic category task, which is similar to the phonological similarity task, except that it consisted of lists of semantically homogeneous and heterogeneous words. Main dependent variables were cumulative memory span, proportion of errors by type, and speech reaction time (SRT) for correct responses. Results The CWS exhibited significantly shorter memory spans for phonologically dissimilar words and were less affected by the phonological qualities of the words than the CWNS in Experiment 1, based on the findings of both between-groups and within-group analyses. In Experiment 2, although the groups did not differ in their performance in either condition, within-group analyses revealed that the CWNS benefitted from semantic similarity, whereas the CWS did not. The between-groups difference in absolute difference scores, however, did not reach significance. The CWS produced more omissions and false alarms than the CWNS in both experiments, but the 2 groups of children were otherwise comparable in SRT, although the CWS exhibited overall faster SRT than the CWNS in Experiment 2. Conclusions Verbal short-term memory is one domain-general cognitive process in which CWS display weakness relative to typically fluent peers. These weaknesses are likely due, in part, to differences in phonological and, perhaps, semantic processing of words to aid memory.

Publication Date:
Feb 28 2019
Date Submitted:
Jul 10 2019
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
in press

 Record created 2019-07-10, last modified 2019-07-11

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