People with selective mutism are people who do not feel comfortable talking to the majority of people that they do not know extremely well. It is generally caused by a fear of public embarrassment or any other type of shyness. They think that they are being judged everywhere they go, everything they do, although they are not – and this causes this caution in talking to other people. This can happen not only with strangers, but also people seen regularly! People with selective mutism usually want to speak – they know that it is important and would only benefit them – but feel mentally restrained. This type of fear manifests mostly from ages 11-13, while the beginnings of selective mutism can happen as early as 3-6 years old although has more of an impact in the younger ages (generally around 6-), however, its impact can greatly depend on the person. In older children, it can have lesser affects as they can think a bit more deeply about what people are going to think – and realize that they are mostly just not going to judge anything. Even though many know this, they still have an internal fear, which is in the end selective mutism.
Sometimes, children with selective mutism will speak in a few select scenarios (a more mild case), but in other cases they will very rarely speak (a very severe case), overall depending on the amount of anxiety – caused by selective mutism – that they have in social circumstances. Selective mutism is able to be passed down from generation to generation – if no parents or grandparents have ever had selective mutism, you are not as likely to have it, but if you have a family history of it, you have a much higher chance to get it. Of course, you can get selective mutism without a family history – it is just less likely. Selective mutism, however, is quite rare – only known to affect less than one percent of children in the US. It affects females slightly more than males, although this very much could be concluded simply because of research limitations and is not necessarily correct.