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Elective mutism: an analysis of 100 cases.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Z├╝rich, Switzerland.



An extended series of 100 children with elective mutism (EM) was clinically analyzed.


The total sample included two subgroups of clinically referred children at different locations and a subgroup of nonreferred children with EM. The study was based on comprehensive item sheets and, in the nonreferred sample only, the Child Behavior Checklist.


EM is a rare disorder in the referred child psychiatric samples. It typically starts at preschool age, is more common in girls, and is seen in all social strata. A background of migration and early developmental risk factors is also quite common. Premorbid speech and language disorders play a role in one third of the clientele, and three quarters of children with EM had behavioral abnormalities during infancy and preschool age. School and unfamiliar people create the social context in which children with EM most frequently do not speak. Shyness and internalizing behavior problems are the most common personality features in EM, and comorbid diagnoses are quite frequent.


This large series of affected children has identified the most typical features of EM and thereby extends the limited knowledge of this rare disorder of childhood.

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