Children born during the COVID-19 pandemic have lower IQ, according to researchers from Brown University.
Persistent lockdowns and social distancing requirements have closed many daycares and nurseries over the past year. It has also kept many young children from their peers and extended families during an age of critical cognitive development.
“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,” says The Guardian.
Lead study author Sean Deoni, associate professor of pediatrics at Brown University, said pandemic-era children appear to have scored shockingly low on tests designed to assess cognitive development due to limited stimulation at home and less interaction with the world outside.
“It’s not subtle by any stretch,” said Deoni to The Guardian. “You don’t typically see things like that, outside of major cognitive disorders.”
During the study, researchers followed 672 children from the state of Rhode Island. Of these children, 308 were born prior to January 2019. The two remaining groups included 176 who were born between January 2019 and March 2020 and 188 who were born after July 2020. All the children were full-term and largely white.
Deoni attributes the change largely to increased parental stress during the pandemic as well as a lack of stimulation and interaction at home.
In their study, the authors wrote, “We find that children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic. Moreover, we find that males and children in lower socioeconomic families have been most affected.”
The authors also noted that children may have been less able to learn from facial cues — impairing their overall development — because of mask-wearing by adults.
Ultimately, the study’s “results highlight that even in the absence of direct SARS-CoV-2 infection and Covid illness, the environmental changes associated Covid pandemic is significantly and negatively affecting infant and child development.”
The negative impact of the pandemic on older children has been well documented.
A study published by the Oxford University Press found that “anxiety, depression, irritability, boredom, inattention, and fear of COVID-19 [were] predominant new-onset psychological problems in children during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Disrupted or stunted development during the early years of life may be irreversible in pandemic-era children. As Deoni said, “The ability to course-correct becomes smaller, the older that child gets.”