Can Parents Influence a Child's Handedness?

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About 10 percent of the population is left-handed, according to a 2012 article in "Scientific American." Long before learning to write, an infant might favor her left hand when reaching for objects or pulling herself up to a standing position. This can be an early indication of left-handedness, although it is not always the case. Parents might prefer that their children are right-handed for a number of reasons, including that left-handed people often adopt an awkward hand position when writing. Everyday objects such as scissors, buttons and zippers can be challenging for a left-handed child.

Biology and Genetics

  • Whether a person is right or left-handed comes down to biology and genetics, confirms Clare Porac, professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. The evolutionary process of natural selection has resulted in language and speech control in the left side of the brain in the majority of people. Over thousands of years, this has produced a human population with a genetic bias toward a preference for right-handedness because the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body.

Problems With Left-Handedness

  • The world is designed for right-handed people -- many tools are difficult for left-handed people to use. A left-handed child might struggle with school equipment. Scissors will not fit snugly into his hand; spiral-bound notebooks will make writing uncomfortable; pens and chalk are likely to smear; and even his desk might be designed for his right-handed classmates. Fortunately, left-handed versions of school supplies and household items are available to make life easier for lefties.

Myths About Left-Handedness

  • Most myths about left-handedness, including the notion that left-handed people are more intelligent and more creative than their right-handed counterparts, are not supported by research. Many studies have revealed that, on average, left-handed people are smarter than right-handed people by merely one IQ point, according to the "Scientific American" article, written by professor Chris McManus at University College London. The notion that left-handedness means a higher level of creativity is based on the fact that creative thought occurs mostly on the right side of the brain, which control movements on the left side of the body. The brain's thought processes are far too complicated to be contained within only one side, according to the article.

Tips for Parents

  • Pediatrician Laura Jana, writing at BabyCenter.com, advises parents against trying to influence their child's hand preference because while genetics might play a part, the structure of her nervous system has a lot to do with whether she is right or left-handed. Forcing her to use her right hand when this is not her natural preference could leave her confused and frustrated, and there is no guarantee it will work, Jana writes. While some infants display a clear preference for one hand as early as 6 months of age, other children might use both hands equally until they are 5 or 6 years old, at which stage they will make a choice. The best advice for parents is not to interfere with the process.

References

  • Photo Credit John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images Katy McDonnell/Digital Vision/Getty Images PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
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