Toddler hand preference trajectories predict 3-year language outcome

Dev Psychobiol. 2017 Nov;59(7):876-887. doi: 10.1002/dev.21560. Epub 2017 Sep 9.


A growing body of work suggests that early motor experience affects development in unexpected domains. In the current study, children's hand preference for role-differentiated bimanual manipulation (RDBM) was measured at monthly intervals from 18 to 24 months of age (N = 90). At 3 years of age, children's language ability was assessed using the Preschool Language Scales 5th edition (PLS™-5). Three distinct RDBM hand preference trajectories were identified using latent class growth analysis: (1) children with a left hand preference but a moderate amount of right hand use; (2) children with a right hand preference but a moderate amount of left hand use; and (3) children with a right hand preference and only a mild amount of left hand use. Stability over time within all three trajectories indicated that children did not change hand use patterns from 18 to 24 months. Children with the greatest amount of preferred (i.e., right) hand use demonstrated higher expressive language scores compared to children in both trajectories with moderate levels of non-preferred hand use. Children with the greatest amount of right hand use also had higher scores for receptive language compared to children with a right hand preference but moderate left hand use. Results support that consistency in handedness as measured by the amount of preferred hand use is related to distal language outcomes in development.

Keywords: hand preference; handedness; hemispheric specialization; language; laterality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child Behavior / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development*
  • Male