Infants with a clear hand preference show advanced language ability as toddlers

July 16, 2014 by Daniel Kienzler, Florida International University

(Medical Xpress)—Infants who exhibit a consistent right hand preference are more likely to develop advanced language skills by age two, according to a study by FIU psychologist Eliza L. Nelson. The findings were recently published in the journal of Developmental Psychology.

In the study, Nelson measured handedness – the tendency to use one hand more naturally than the other – in different ways according to the age-appropriate motor level. She looked at how used their hands to pick up toys and compared it to how they used their hands in combination to manipulate toys as toddlers.

"We can't ask an infant to write, as we might do with an adult participant," Nelson said. "So a challenge for researchers studying the development of handedness is to choose tasks that are fun and engaging for the child and sufficiently challenging without being frustrating."
The study suggests there may be an advantage to having consistent hand preference as an infant. Results showed children who had clear early hand preference performed better on tests than those who did not develop handedness until toddlerhood. Those who were inconsistent in their hand use as infants, but developed a preference for the left or right hand as toddlers, had language scores in the typical range for their age.

"We know that when children enter school they vary in their language and fine motor abilities, and these differences are linked to later academic achievement," Nelson said. "Our larger goal in this work is to identify how language and motor skills are linked in development and to identify earlier markers of school readiness."

Nelson tracked 38 children over 16 monthly visits – nine infant visits at 6 to 14 months of age, and seven toddler visits at 18 to 24 months of age. Language skills were measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development – an individually administered test designed to assess developmental functioning of infants and toddlers. Some children showed a clear right-hand preference during the infant visits and continued to be right-handed as toddlers. Others did not show a clear as infants, but were either right or left-handed by age two.

Explore further: A dominant hemisphere for handedness and language?

More information: The study is available online: psycnet.apa.org/journals/dev/50/3/809.html

Related Stories

A dominant hemisphere for handedness and language?

July 4, 2014
Through an innovative approach using a large psychometric and brain imaging database, researchers in the Groupe d'Imagerie Neurofonctionnelle (CNRS/CEA/Université de Bordeaux) have demonstrated that the location of language ...

Toddlers' language skills predict less anger by preschool

December 20, 2012
Toddlers with more developed language skills are better able to manage frustration and less likely to express anger by the time they're in preschool. That's the conclusion of a new longitudinal study from researchers at the ...

Study links poor early language skills to later behavior and attention problems

July 16, 2014
A new Indiana University study has tracked the links between early language skills and subsequent behavior problems in young children. Poor language skills, the study suggests, limit the ability to control one's behavior, ...

Study finds toddlers 'surprisingly sophisticated' at understanding unfamiliar accents

April 16, 2014
A new University of Toronto study has found that by two years of age, children are remarkably good at comprehending speakers who talk with accents the toddlers have never heard before.

Baboons, infants show similar gesturing behavior, suggesting shared communication systems

March 21, 2012
Both human infants and baboons have a stronger preference for using their right hand to gesture than for a simple grasping task, supporting the hypothesis that language development, which is lateralized in the left part of ...

Recommended for you

Depression speeds up brain aging, find psychologists

May 24, 2018
Psychologists at the University of Sussex have found a link between depression and an acceleration of the rate at which the brain ages. Although scientists have previously reported that people with depression or anxiety have ...

People with family history of alcoholism release more dopamine in expectation of alcohol

May 23, 2018
People with a family history of alcohol use disorder (AUD) release more dopamine in the brain's main reward center in response to the expectation of alcohol than people diagnosed with the disorder, or healthy people without ...

Why we fail to understand our smartphone use

May 23, 2018
Checking your phone dozens of times a day indicates unconscious behaviour, which is "extremely repetitive" say psychologists.

Study confirms that men and women tend to adopt different navigation strategies

May 23, 2018
When navigating in a known environment, men prefer to take shortcuts to reach their destination more quickly, while women tend to use routes they know. This is according to Alexander Boone of UC Santa Barbara in the US who ...

Early life trauma in men associated with reduced levels of sperm microRNAs

May 22, 2018
Exposure to early life trauma can lead to poor physical and mental health in some individuals, which can be passed on to their children. Studies in mice show that at least some of the effects of stress can be transmitted ...

Training compassion 'muscle' may boost brain's resilience to others' suffering

May 22, 2018
It can be distressing to witness the pain of family, friends or even strangers going through a hard time. But what if, just like strengthening a muscle or learning a new hobby, we could train ourselves to be more compassionate ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Rosser
not rated yet Jul 16, 2014
So - what's the long term difference? Do children who have a clear preference continue to do better, or do the others catch up and perhaps surpass their peers at a later age? I'm not sure of the significance of this research. Without knowing the long term effect this could lead to bad decisions on the part of child development specialist and do more harm than good.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.