Photo: Dr. Johanna Barbara SattlerWrite differently, think differently – facts about left-handedness

The number of left-handers in the population is increasing. Left-handers are confronted with a number of practical problems in everyday life. Yet the left hand is just as good as the right one.

Photo: Dr. Johanna Barbara SattlerLeft-handers tend not to have it easy in our right-handed world: smudged ink when writing, the wrong work material or devices that are designed to be used with the right arm, and the widespread ritual of shaking someone’s right hand.

Handedness is defined by nature. But even if children are now for the most part no longer consciously converted by adults, they often orientate themselves from a very early age by modelling their behaviour on their right-handed environment. It is important that children are able and allowed to use their dominant hand with no restrictions from the very start. Because for left-handers, other areas of the brain are active.

Lack of figures about left-handedness in Germany

To this day there are no unified, scientifically-supported surveys of the distribution of left-handers in Germany. Experts are confronted with problems such as:

  • Was the person converted consciously or unconsciously?
  • What influence does the conversion of earlier generations have?
  • Which survey methods should be used: At what point do you count as left-handed? If you write, eat, hammer, brush your teeth with your left hand...?

Estimated number of left-handers in Germany

  • For most children, their dominant hand is defined by the end of their third year (McManus et al., 1988). This functions as the working hand (used for most actions) and is supported by the non-dominant hand (support hand) (Rosenkötter, 2012).
  • The proportion of left-handers in Germany is not exactly clear. Findings suggest that it is between 10-15%, but could even be 20% (Sattler et al., 2014).
  • Vasterling (2011) suggests that there will be more children in German-speaking primary schools who write with their left hand because left-handers are no longer converted.

The abolition of conversion could have a delayed influence:

  • Societal thinking and behaviour will probably only change slowly: for example, the topic of left-handedness was only officially accepted into Bavarian curricula in 2002.
  • Role models in the form of right-handed parents could continue to be over-represented and influence their children’s hand preference (unconscious conversion).
  • This could explain why, in a study by Serafin and colleagues (2014) the proportion of left-handers among younger age groups grew compared to older groups (1,214 test subjects, DE):
    60 to 91 years: 1%
    20 to 59 years: 8%
    4 to 19 years: 12%

Gender distribution

Papadatou-Pastou and colleagues (2008) compared international studies of the distribution of male and female left-handers. They considered 1,787,629 test subjects and came to the conclusion that left-handedness occurs more frequently in men. This difference was also apparent when they focused only on writing with the left hand.


Further reading

SATTLER B.; MARQUARDT C.: Motorische Schreibleistung von linkshändigen und rechtshändigen Kindern in der 1. bis 4. Grundschulklasse. In: Ergotherapie und Rehabilitation (2010) 49, Teil 1 und 2. http://www.lefthander-consulting.org/deutsch/Sattler_Sonderdruck.pdf

MCMANUS, I. C.; SIK, G.; COLE, D. R.; MELLON, A. F.; WONG, J.; KLOSS, J.: The development of handedness in children. In: British Journal of Developmental Psychology (1988) 6(3), S. 257-273.

ROSENKÖTTER, H.: Motorik und Wahrnehmung im Kindesalter – Eine neuropädagogische Einführung. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer-Verlag, 2012.

SATTLER, J. B.; KLUßMANN, A.; ARNOLD-SCHULZ-GAHMEN, B.; VASTERLING, A.; WAGNER, H.; HARTMANN, B.: S1-Leitlinie: Händigkeit–Bedeutung und Untersuchung. AWMF online (2014).

VASTERLING, A.; WEILAND, G.; SATTLER, J. B.: Linke Hand – rechte Hand: Ein Ratgeber zur Händigkeit. Idstein: Schulz-Kirchner Verlag, 2011.

SERAFIN, P.; MÜHLEMEYER, C.; LEVCHUK, I.; GEBHARDT, H.; KLUßMANN, A.: Auswirkungen der Handpräferenz auf die isometrische Maximalkraft bei ausgewählten Kraftfällen. Zentralblatt für Arbeitsmedizin, Arbeitsschutz und Ergonomie (2014) 65(1), S. 5-11.

PAPADATOU-PASTOU, M. ; MARTIN, M.; MUNAFO, M. R.; JONES, G. V.: Sex differences in left-handedness. A meta-analysis of 144 studies. Psychological Bulletin (2008) 134(5), S. 677-699.

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