Children who are ambidextrous or can use both their hands efficiently are at a greater risk of suffering from mental, language and scholastic problems, European researchers have claimed.

According to the team led by researchers from Imperial College London and other European institutions, mixed-handed children were twice as likely as their right-handed peers to have difficulties with language and to perform poorly in school, journal Pediatrics reported on Monday.

The scientists suggested that their findings may help teachers and health professionals to identify children who are particularly at risk of developing certain problems. “Mixed-handedness is intriguing — we don’t know why some people prefer to make use of both hands when most people use only one,” lead researcher Dr. Alina Rodriguez said.

Dr. Rodriguez said, “Our study is interesting because it suggests that some children who are mixed-handed experience greater difficulties in school than their left and right-handed friends“.

“We think that there are differences in the brain that might explain these difficulties, but there needs to be more research.”

Around one in every 100 people is mixed-handed. The study looked at nearly 8,000 children, 87 of whom were ambidextrous and found that such children were twice as likely as their right-handed peers to have mental health, language and scholastic problems.

“When they reached 15 or 16, mixed-handed adolescents were also at twice the risk of having symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),” the research said.

They were also likely to have more severe symptoms of ADHD than their right-handed counterparts. It is estimated that ADHD affects between 3 to 9 per cent of school-aged children and young people

The adolescents also reported having greater difficulties with language than those who were left or right-handed. This is in line with earlier studies that have linked mixed-handedness with dyslexia.

Little is known about what makes people mixed-handed but it is known that handedness is linked to the hemispheres in the brain.

“Because mixed-handedness is such a rare condition, the number of mixed-handed children we were able to study was relatively small, but our results are statistically and clinically significant,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

To study the effects of mixed-handedness, Dr. Rodriguez and her colleagues looked at prospective data from a cohort of 7,871 children from Northern Finland.

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