Left-handed children 'do badly at school'

Gap in performance particularly wide among girls, study shows

Education Editor,Richard Garner
Tuesday 02 December 2008 01:00 GMT

Children who are left-handed or ambidextrous perform worse at school than right-handers, according to a study of national curriculum test results. Left-handed girls fare worse than boys: while left-handers from both sexes start off performing worse, girls fail to catch up with their right-handed peers during later school life.

Those who are ambidextrous from both sexes also fail to bridge the gap in performance, according to the study carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol for the Economic and Social Research Council. The researchers, who looked at the results of more than 10,000 children, reveal that left-handers perform less well in IQ tests and tests for 11- and 14-year-olds.

"Left-handed children perform worse than right-handed ones in terms of cognitive outcomes at ages eight, 11 and 14," they conclude. "The gap between left-handed girls and right-handed girls is larger than the gap between left-handed boys and right-handed boys ... there is no sense of catching-up in non-right-handed girls.

"Mixed-handers of both genders do less well than right-handed children across a wider range of outcomes".

On average a left-hander has test scores 1 per cent below right-handers.

The performance of the ambidextrous students is more troubling. "Children with 'mixed-handedness' have lower development, which first appears in the early years but remains present at age 14, particularly for girls," the research says.

The study, by Professors Paul Gregg, Carol Propper and Katharina Janke, found that about 10 per cent of children were left-handed and about 7.5 per cent ambidextrous. One theory put forward for the poor performance of ambidextrous children is that they may have become mixed-handed due to lack of parental awareness of their development and less stimulation.

There is one bright spot on the horizon for left-handed boys: the research indicated there are more boy geniuses amongst left-handers than right-handers. Left-handed boys dominate the top and the bottom of the ability range.

The left wing

*George Bush Snr

The 41st president of the US, he captained his Yale University baseball team, and, and as a left-handed first baseman, played in the first two College World Series (1947 and 1948).

*Kurt Cobain

Usually wrote left-handed, but in time learnt how to write right-handed as well. Sometimes he would play a right-handed guitar upside down and re-string it.

*Osama bin Laden

According to the FBI, he is left-handed.

*Matt Groening

The creator of The Simpsons also made his star Bart Simpson left-handed. Bart's neighbour Ned Flanders is also a leftie.

*Joan of Arc

Was burnt at the stake in 1431 for being a heretic and a witch. History has her down as a leftie but there is some speculation about this, as she may have been depicted in this way to make her seem evil.

*Angelina Jolie

Had to have guns specially made so that she could reload them easily for the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

*Martina Navratilova

One of only nine left-handed players (seven men and two women) who have ever won a Wimbledon singles title.

*Jack the Ripper

The police believed the killer was left-handed as most of the women killed had their throats slit from left to right. This would fit a killer attacking from the front but if the victim was ambushed from behind it would be a right-handed killer.

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