An investigation was conducted to elucidate the nature of speech breathing in children and adolescents and to determine if sex and age influence performance. Eighty healthy boys and girls representing four age groups (7, 10, 13, and 16 years) were studied using helium dilution to obtain measures of subdivisions of the lung volume and using magnetometers to obtain measures of resting tidal breathing and speech breathing. Results for subdivisions of the lung volume and resting tidal breathing revealed sex- and age-related differences, most of which were attributable to differences in breathing apparatus size. Results for speech breathing indicated that sex was not an important variable, but that age was critical in determining speech breathing performance. The most substantial differences were between the 7-year-old goup and older groups. These differences were characterized by larger lung volume, rib cage volume, and abdominal volume initiations and terminations for breath groups, larger lung volume excursions per breath group, fewer numbers of syllables per breath group, and larger lung volume expenditures per syllable for the 7-year-old group compared to older groups. In most respects, speech breathing appeared adultlike by the end of the first decade of life. Clinical implications regarding these findings are offered.
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