“Although people who stutter are protected by anti-discrimination legislation, we know that stuttering is negatively perceived by the public, which can give rise to preconceived and stigmatised notions of abilities and personality characteristics,” says Associate Professor Steven Cumming from the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences.
There are currently more than 140,000 working-age Australians with a stutter, and recent research has shown clustering of people who stutter in professions such as computing, engineering and administration.
“What we don’t know is if it is this stereotyping and assumption by employers which is driving the occupational trends we can see, or if it is the personal preferences and interests of the individuals themselves.”
The project will focus on teenagers as this is a key life-stage at which people make their vocational choices. The aim is to explore the extent to which stuttering influences those choices.
“Stuttering typically begins in early childhood, and children and adolescents who stutter commonly experience significant teasing and bullying, so that by the time they enter the workforce they have already experienced the adverse side effects of public stigma.”
Recent research has also identified that fear of speaking and avoidance of speaking situations is very common with people who stutter, and so is likely to have implications for participation in the work environment.
“Employment is a really central part of most adults’ lives and attaining work satisfaction contributes significantly to overall health and wellbeing,” comments Dr Geraldine Bricker-Katz, also from the Faculty of Health Sciences.
“For these reasons it’s important that we gain a better understanding of the experiences of people who stutter and as a result are better able to understand and remediate any obstacles to workplace participation.”
This project is part of a wider research program on the workplace experiences of people who stutter being undertaken by the Faculty of Health Sciences.
The project is currently recruiting 13 to 18-year-olds who stutter and a matched control group who do not stutter. Both groups will attend an interview and complete measurement instruments, including a measure of vocational preferences. The project is being conducted at the University of Sydney’s Cumberland Campus in Lidcombe, however the researchers are happy to travel to other locations in metropolitan Sydney.
This study is approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Sydney.
For more information or to volunteer please contact Dr Geraldine Bricker-Katz, Post Doctoral Research Associate, Faculty of Health Sciences. She can be contacted directly on 0414 343 794 or email firstname.lastname@example.org