As a lot of parents around the globe are still celebrating the addition of a new member in the family , a new study by Researchers from Brown University in Rhode Island has revealed that Children born during the Covid-19 pandemic (march 2020- present) may have lower IQs, and this is attributed to reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic introduced environmental changes that significantly and negatively affected infant and child development and with the closure of Early Childhood Development Centres, schools and playgrounds, life for infants changed considerably as many schools opted for digital home schooling which is actually hard to access in some countries due to lack of enough resources, high internet tariffs and more other factors.
School is a place of academic learning, but also an arena for development, socialization and connecting with friends and peers, and for emotional and academic support from teachers, which are all important factors for children’s psychological well-being and adjustment. The closure of such institutions has been an array of health risk behaviors (e.g., socio-emotional complications, reduced physical activity) which greatly affectS the upbringing of children.
According to the study first published on Medrxiv, it revealed the Mean IQs for children aged three months to three years old dropped from around 100 in the decade before the pandemic to 79 during it.
“It’s not subtle by any stretch,” said Lead study author Sean Deoni, associate professor of paediatrics (research) at Brown University. “You don’t typically see things like that, outside of major cognitive disorders.” he added.
With limited stimulation at home and less interaction with the world outside due to repeated lockdowns, pandemic-era children appear to have scored shockingly low on tests designed to assess cognitive development, Sean said.
The study also said that males and children in lower socioeconomic families(poorer backgrounds) have been most affected.
Not only has the effect of Covid-19 and its resulting lockdowns affected infants, but also it has been particularly impactful on working parents. With many laid off , there’s stress and anxiety mounting on parents as they strive to provide basic needs for their families and for the few that still work remotely, tend to give less time to their growing children while they spend more hours concentrating on work which has largely created a bridge between parent-child relationship.
“Parents are stressed and frazzled … that interaction the child would normally get has decreased substantially.” Sean told the Guardian
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.
What is unclear from the study’s data is whether these lower cognitive scores are temporary and will normalize as employment and schools fully re-open and children return to pre-pandemic levels of play and interaction, and family financial insecurity and mental health challenges subside.
However, the researchers said Babies’ brains are more malleable than adults and it is likely they will be able to recover.
Scientists tested the children on verbal, non-verbal and early-learning skills to assess their development.
Sean said. “The ability to course-correct becomes smaller, the older that child gets.”
The above data was collected from a relatively stable 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.
IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient and it is used to measure mental ability.