Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate whether reduced speech intelligibility in children with cleft palate affects social and personal attribute judgments made by typically developing children of different ages.
Design: The study (1) measured the correlation between intelligibility scores of speech samples from children with cleft palate and social and personal attribute judgments made by typically developing children based on these samples and (2) compared the attitude judgments made by children of different ages.
Participants: A total of 90 typically developing children, 30 in each of three age groups (7 to 8 years, 9 to 10 years, and 11 to 12 years).
Outcome Measures: Speech intelligibility scores and typically developing children's attitudes were measured using eight social and personal attributes on a three-point rating scale.
Results: There was a significant correlation between the speech intelligibility scores and attitude judgments for a number of traits: "sick-healthy'' as rated by the children aged 7 to 8 years, "no friends-friends'' by the children aged 9 to 10 years, and "ugly-good looking'' and "no friends-friends'' by the children aged 11 to 12 years. Children aged 7 to 8 years gave significantly lower ratings for "mean-kind'' but higher ratings for "shy-outgoing'' when compared with the other two groups.
Conclusions: Typically developing children tended to make negative social and personal attribute judgments about children with cleft palate based solely on the intelligibility of their speech. Society, educators, and health professionals should work together to ensure that children with cleft palate are not stigmatized by their peers.