Study: Newborns who grew up during pandemic are developmentally behind

A study published on Tuesday revealed that babies born in the early months of the pandemic scored lower on a screening of their developmental skills than those born before the pandemic.

The results noted the difference came regardless of whether their mothers contracted coronavirus during pregnancy. 

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics and followed 255 babies born in March to December of 2020 in New York City, which had been the U.S. epicenter in the earliest days of the pandemic.

Infants were screened for social, communication, and motor skills at six months of age using a standard questionnaire about their ability to complete certain milestones like rolling from their back to their stomach, how often they babble, and other things. 

Most areas showed that babies born during the pandemic displayed lower scores in comparison to those born earlier, whether or not they were born to mothers who had COVID-19 during their pregnancy. Researchers added that the results may not be indicative of long-term deficits in development.

The differences were small discrepancies in average scores when those were compared between babies born before and after the pandemic began, not higher incidences of delays in development. 

Although scores in social skills and fine and gross motor skills were slightly lower among babies born during the pandemic, scores in communication were a bit higher.

“It does, of course, give pause. Why the heck are these kiddos scoring less well on what I would consider very foundational skills, like motor skills, particularly?” asked Sean Deoni, an associate professor of pediatrics research at Brown University.

Deoni has conducted research on the cognitive skills of children born amidst the pandemic, but he was not involved in the JAMA Pediatrics study. “My initial impression would be things like language would be affected and motor wouldn’t be, and we’re seeing the opposite,” he added.




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