Behavior Genetics

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 123–138 | Cite as

Birth factors and laterality: Effects of birth order, parental age, and birth stress on four indices of lateral preference

  • Stanley Coren
  • Clare Porac


As an alternative to genetic theories of handedness, some theorists have offered an environmental mechanism, associated with birth stress, for the appearance of left-handedness. They suggest that brain damage as a result of birth difficulties can lead to a switch in hand preference from the right side to the left side. Consequently, one should find more left-handers in groups where the probability of the occurrence of birth stress is greater. Three studies are presented which explore the laterality of not only hand but also foot, eye, and ear, in a total of 5161 individuals, in an attempt to assess any relationship to birth stress. Maternal age seems to predict deviations from dextrality, dependent on the sex of the offspring, while paternal age and birth order do not. The use of a direct measure of conditions predisposing toward birth stress suggests that these results depend on prenatal or perinatal environmental trauma rather than chromosomal factors.

Key Words

handedness laterality environmental influences birth stress maternal age birth order 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanley Coren
    • 1
  • Clare Porac
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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