Handedness in Children
A few generations ago there was a strong social preference for right handedness and parents would often try to persuade their children to predominantly use their right hands. Today, most parents are completely comfortable letting their children's handedness develop naturally, and they rarely try to exert any influence on their children's innate preference.
Nature or Nurture?There are many theories as to why some people are inclined toward either right or left handedness but at this point, there are no definitive answers. Hand preference does seem to run in families, according to the following statistics:
- Of right handed couples, over 90% of the children are 'righties', too.
- Left handed couples produce children who are lefties about half of the time.
- In mixed couples, the children are right handed about 80% of the time.
Right Brain - Left BrainThe muscles on each side of our bodies are controlled by the opposite side of the brain. Additionally, sensory information is sent to the opposite body side, which explains why when a brain suffers damage on one side, the physical affects are seen on the other (as in strokes). The left side of the brain is dominant for language in about 95% of right handed people, but about 65% of the time, the left side is dominant for lefties, as well. What does all of this mean? For starters, it questions traditional thinking which says that the right side of the brain controls creative thinking while the left side controls logical thinking, making right handed people logical thinkers while lefties are said to be more creative.
Hand Preference DevelopmentYoung babies tend to use the hand that is most convenient at the time. If an object is placed near their right hand, they will reach with that one, but if it nearer their left hand, they are likely to reach with their left. By about 18 months, most babies begin to show a hand preference (about 90% of the time, it is for their right hands) and by their third birthdays, almost all children can be described as either right or left handed. When parents simply let their children use the hand of their choice, about nine out of ten will ultimately be right handed.
There has been some speculation that even without meaning to, parents may exert subtle influences that steer their children toward right handedness, such as routinely placing eating utensils near their children's right hands or placing writing instruments in that hand. A study of unborn babies in the UK found that handedness may be well established, though, even before babies are born. It determined that when babies suck their thumbs in utero, they choose their right hand about 90% of the time, much the same as the percentage of right handed people in the general public. Additionally, follow ups with the babies as they grew showed that their in utero preferences matched their eventual handedness.