Scientists have discovered that the coronavirus pandemic significantly impacted the intelligence of children born during it: Living the entirety of their lives in lockdown has seriously stunted their cognitive development.
Researchers analyzed the cognitive performances of 672 children born in Rhode Island, 188 of them born well into the pandemic (after July 2020), 308 born before it (prior to January 2019) and 176 of them born during its beginning stage (between January 2019 and March 2020). They found that children born during the pandemic have pronouncedly lower IQs than those born before it.
“It’s not subtle by any stretch,” lead study author and Brown University associate professor of pediatric research Sean Deoni told the Guardian of the trend. “You don’t typically see things like that, outside of major cognitive disorders.”
Authors attribute the pattern to children being cognitively impaired from spending so much time inside with overwhelmed parents during the past year. While many adults have managed to tough it out, so much isolation at a critical juncture in the mental progress of infants has likely caused lasting damage.
Not being exposed to the wider world as much as pre-pandemic children and instead spending their infancy with stressed adults has left them at a significant mental disadvantage than their slightly older peers, according to the not-yet-peer-reviewed findings published Wednesday.
“Parents are stressed and frazzled … that interaction the child would normally get has decreased substantially,” said Deoni, adding that the lack of stimulation during the pandemic has created setbacks that will be hard for children to overcome. “The ability to course-correct becomes smaller the older that child gets.”
Children from less financially secure families were impacted the most, researchers noted.