Researchers blame lack of stimulation as parents balanced childcare with working from home
“It’s not subtle by any stretch,” said [the author]. “You don’t typically see things like that, outside of major cognitive disorders.”
EDITOR’S NOTE – How about MASKS blocked out acoustic stimuli (muffled voices), visual stimuli (no image of the human face), and social stimuli (no smiles)?
Children born during the coronavirus pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor and overall cognitive performance compared with children born before, a US study suggests.
The first few years of a child’s life are critical to their cognitive development. But with Covid-19 triggering the closure of businesses, nurseries, schools and playgrounds, life for infants changed considerably, with parents stressed and stretched as they tried to balance work and childcare.
With limited stimulation at home and less interaction with the world outside, pandemic-era children appear to have scored shockingly low on tests designed to assess cognitive development, said lead study author Sean Deoni, associate professor of paediatrics (research) at Brown University.
In the decade preceding the pandemic, the mean IQ score on standardised tests for children aged between three months and three years of age hovered around 100, but for children born during the pandemic that number tumbled to 78, according to the analysis, which is yet to be peer-reviewed.
“It’s not subtle by any stretch,” said Deoni. “You don’t typically see things like that, outside of major cognitive disorders.”
The study included 672 children from the state of Rhode Island. Of these, 188 were born after July 2020 and 308 were born prior to January 2019, while 176 were born between January 2019 and March 2020. The children included in the study were born full-term, had no developmental disabilities and were mostly white.
Those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds fared worse in the tests, the researchers found.
The biggest reason behind the falling scores is likely the lack of stimulation and interaction at home, said Deoni. “Parents are stressed and frazzled … that interaction the child would normally get has decreased substantially.”
Whether these lower cognitive scores will have a long-term impact is unclear. In the first few years of life, the foundations for cognition are laid, much like building a house – it’s easier to add rooms or flourishes when you’re building the foundation, Deoni said. “The ability to course-correct becomes smaller, the older that child gets.”
Given this data comes from a relatively affluent part of the US, where social support and unemployment benefits are generous, the fear is that things could be worse in poorer parts of the country and the world, he added.