Mumbling and grunting teenagers are the butt of jokes. Overnight, it seems, many become monosyllabic once they hit puberty, transformed into the TV teen characters Kevin and Perry.
This can leave parents feeling exasperated, wondering where their chatty, friendly child has gone, and whether he or she will return.
But why does it happen? And is it cause for concern? The latter is not a flippant question as, for a very small minority of children and teenagers, mumbling will be a symptom of an underlying health problem such as hearing loss or a mental health problem such as psychosis.
That’s because psychosis affects the way the brain processes information, so that you hear and believe things that aren’t real, and people with the condition often mumble to themselves in response to voices in their heads, explains Dr Genevieve von Lob, a clinical psychologist in South-West London with more than ten years’ experience within NHS child and adolescent mental health services.
Meanwhile, in teenagers with hearing loss, their perception of sound changes and they may be unable to hear their own voices clearly. This may encourage them to mumble — but they also might be unaware that they are mumbling, explains Dr von Lob.
These problems are, however, fortunately rare; for example, psychotic disorders affect 0.4 per cent of children aged between five and 18, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
But mumbling not due to a medical condition may be linked to a number of different factors.
Could gender differences be one? It’s well known, for example, that boys generally develop language skills later than girls.
This is thought to be due, in part, to a different wiring of the brain; more areas of girls’ brains, including the cerebral cortex (responsible for memory, attention, thought and language) are dedicated to verbal function, and the hippocampus — a region of the brain critical to verbal memory storage — develops earlier in girls. However, whether this is linked to mumbling is not clear.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Rachel Ellis