handedness and dominance

It will be such a delight for any parent to watch their baby grow. There would be nothing as thrilling and exciting for them to watch their little ones reach various developmental milestones – smiling, crawling, walking and talking. And, that is when you can identify some of your child’s personalities. One of the most important things you will notice is hand preference(hand dominance) – your child’s preference to his right or left hand. I have categorized this article into the following 6 segments.


  1. What is hand dominance or handedness?
  2. Why is hand dominance important?
  3. When will I know if my child is right-handed or left-handed?
  4. How to determine if your child is left or right handed?
  5. Consequences of changing the handedness of a child
  6. How to bring up a left handed child in the right handed world?


What is hand dominance or handedness?

Hand dominance is when a child shows preference of one hand over the other. Scientifically, it is defined as the the hand that is most used in performing a task or the distribution of fine motor skills between the right and left hand. There are four types: right-handedness, left-handedness, mixed-handedness and ambidexterity.

1. Right-handedness – It is when people primarily use their right hand when performing a task. The vast majority of the population, about 90% are right handed.

2. Left-handedness – It is when people primarily use the left hand when performing a task. About 10% of the population are left handed.

3. Mixed-handedness – It is when people can perform different tasks better with different hands. For example, someone may write with their left hand and throw using the right hand. Around 30% of the population exhibit this particular trait.

4. Ambidexterity- It is when people perform all the tasks equally well in both the hands. Ambidexterity is very rare with less than 1% of the world population displaying this trait.


Why is hand dominance important?

Hand dominance is a basic skill that a child has to develop to perform any task efficiently. Hand dominance is very essential to develop accuracy and speed in performing tasks like writing, buttoning a shirt, tying shoes etc. When one hand is dominant the other becomes the “helper or assistant hand” – when cutting a paper, the assistant hand holds the paper while the dominant hand cuts with scissors. Hand dominance should be established by the age of 6, so that the child can perform the basic living tasks efficiently.


When will I know if my child is right-handed or left-handed?

There is no set or specific age when a child shows hand dominance. Babies as young as 6 months begin experimenting with both the hands – like using both the hands equally for grabbing a toy.  Most children tend to develop hand dominance or prefer one hand over the other around the age of 2 or 3. Although some children, until they start school after age 5, may us both the hands equally and that is perfectly normal. Hand dominance is influenced by genetics. A baby as young as 6 months should begin experimenting with both the hands. Talk to your paediatrician if your young baby uses only one hand as it might be a motor development issue in the less used hand.

handedness and dominance


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