Academic journal article Psychology Science

Assessing Handedness in Pre-Schoolers: Construction and Initial Validation of a Hand Preference Test for 4-6-Year-Olds

Academic journal article Psychology Science

Assessing Handedness in Pre-Schoolers: Construction and Initial Validation of a Hand Preference Test for 4-6-Year-Olds

Article excerpt

Abstract

The aim of this study was to develop and validate a test for measuring the handedness of pre-school children. The newly developed test consists of 14 activities for checking various aspects of hand preference and was administered to a Viennese sample of 120 children of the ages 4 to 6.5 (18 left-handed, 17 ambidextrous and 85 right-handed). For the purpose of validation, the handedness of the children was assessed via a questionnaire given to parents, observation of the hand used to draw and testing of visual-motor skills as well as general level of development using the Viennese Development Test (WET, Kastner-Koller & Deimann, 2002). The hand preference test proved to be reliable (α=0.97). The inter-correlations of the handedness measures gathered (parent's estimate as well as observation of drawing hand) with the hand preference test substantiates the concurrent validity of the procedure. Right-handers exhibited the most pronounced hand preference; while the hand use of left-handers was significantly less lateralized. Irrespective of the direction of handedness, children with a consistent hand preference had higher total development scores than children with inconsistent use, i.e. frequent changes in hand used for a specific activity. Compared to ambidextrous and right-handed children, left-handers achieved significantly lower scores in the field of visual-motor skills. The results highlight the necessity of a reliable method for differentiated measurement of handedness as early as pre-school.

Key words: Handedness, pre-school age, hand preference test

1. Research goals

The importance of handedness of children comes into play within the context of the development of visual-motor skills and acquisition of cultural techniques. While half of all three-year-olds already show a clear preference for using either the right or left hand, this percentage rises to about 90 percent by the time children enter school (Öztürk, Durmazlar, Ural, Karaagaoglu, Yalaz & Anlar, 1999). Altogether, about 10 percent of all children show a preference for using the left hand, left-handedness is about 25 percent more common among boys than girls (Bryden & Steenhuis, 1997).

Correlations between lateral preference, spatial perception and fine and visual-motor skills have been empirically proved for pre-school children. Bryden and Steenhuis (1997) point out that distinctly developed handedness facilitates right-left differentiation and thus spatial orientation. Karapetsas and Vlachos (1997) were able to show that right-handers performed much better on the task of copying complex figures. They attributed this to the different speeds of brain development, the myelin coating of the corpus callosum and the lateralization of the hemispheres. Giagazoglu, Potiadou, Angelopoulou, Tsikoulas and Tsimaras (2001) compared the gross and fine motor skills of left and right-handed children and concluded that right-handers show significantly better fine motor skills. In both studies, left handed boys usually exhibited the lowest visual-motor and fine motor ability (Giagazoglu et al., 2001; Karapetsas & Vlachos, 1997).

Spatial orientation and visual-spatial intelligence develops through active handling of spatial conditions, especially grasping (Olsson & Rett, 1989). Perceptions of visual figures, directions and spatial relationships are an important pre-condition for learning to read and write. Perceptual differentiation of graphic symbols, such as e.g. letters, places demands on the perceptive and cognitive ability even of well-lateralized right-handed children entering school. Left-handed children have greater problems ascertaining the spatial position of letters and groups of letters, even if no switch in lateral preference has taken place. In a recent study carried out among 8-12-year-old pupils with writing difficulties, Bonoti, Vlachos and Metallidou (2005) found out that this group consisted almost exclusively of left-handers. …

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