Mixed-handed children more likely to have mental health, language and scholastic problems, say Imperial College London researchers
Children who are mixed-handed, or ambidextrous, are more likely to have mental health, language and scholastic problems in childhood than right- or left-handed children, according to a new study published today in the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers behind the study, from Imperial College London and other European institutions, suggest that their findings may help teachers and health professionals to identify children who are particularly at risk of developing certain problems.
Around one in every 100 people is mixed-handed. The study looked at nearly 8,000 children, 87 of whom were mixed-handed, and found that mixed-handed 7 and 8-year old children were twice as likely as their right-handed peers to have difficulties with language and to perform poorly in school.
When they reached 15 or 16, mixed-handed adolescents were also at twice the risk of having symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They were also likely to have more severe symptoms of ADHD than their right-handed counterparts. It is estimated that ADHD affects between 3 to 9% of school-aged children and young people.
The adolescents also reported having greater difficulties with language than those who were left- or right-handed. This is in line with earlier studies that have linked mixed-handedness with dyslexia.
Little is known about what makes people mixed-handed but it is known that handedness is linked to the hemispheres in the brain. Previous research has shown that where a person's natural preference is for using their right hand, the left hemisphere of their brain is more dominant.
Some researchers have suggested that mixed-handedness indicates that the pattern of dominance is not that which is typically seen in most people, i.e. it is less clear that one hemisphere is dominant over the other. One study has suggested that ADHD is linked to having a weaker function in the right hemisphere of the brain, which could help explain why some of the mixed-handed students in today's study had symptoms of ADHD.
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