The pandemic has affected all of us in ways we can only begin to imagine and comprehend. But do you know that its most devastating impact is not on you or your finances but on babies born during the pandemic? A new study suggests that babies born during the pandemic might have a lower intelligence quotient (IQ) than those born before. The median IQ score of babies born before the pandemic hovers around 100 but babies born during the pandemic have a lower median score of only 78. That’s 22 points lower than what is considered normal for their age.
Most children are between 85 and 115, with only 16% of their population being below 85%. But the new study showed that children born during the pandemic are averaging lower than 85%. That’s a stark difference from the lowest range of 85%.
First 1,000 Days
Before the pandemic, parents will be so focused on their newborns during the first year of their lives up until they’re ready for school. But the pandemic changed the routine because of the disruptions in the family—concerns about jobs, finances, family members, health, and many more. Some parents fell sick during the pandemic, further disrupting the already complex environment wherein babies found themselves.
The first 1,000 days in a baby’s life are said to be the most crucial because they will absorb as much information as their brains can manage. However, being born during the pandemic means they don’t see anyone else except their parents and siblings. There is also no guarantee that families stuck at home during the pandemic are taking care more of the newborns. So, what kind of world did they grow into?
Normally, parents would bring their kids to an infant daycare center once they’re old enough to be left with their teachers and classmates. They’ll learn words, numbers, and ideas with their “friends.” They’ll have a world of their own, separate from the world you can create back home. This is what fuels their cognitive abilities. It also develops their social skills.
Lack of Engagement
Researchers see why kids born during the pandemic have lower IQs because of the lack of interaction with other kids. It’s a different feeling for kids to talk among themselves than when they talk with adults. The lack of engagement with other children is tantamount to years of lost interaction; this isn’t something that parental stimulation can fill up. This decreased interaction with other children affects the neural development of babies because the environment is not normal.
There is already a host of evidence that the pandemic has affected babies and children in a variety of forms—from mental problems to literacy issues to poverty. All of these will have an almost irreversible impact on their lives in the future. Researchers suggest that the early childhood development issues may be so deep that they will affect the way these future toddlers will socialize with their peers and learn basic lessons such as visual reception and language.
Foundation of the Brain
The weak foundation of a home will impact the overall structure. That is what will happen to babies born during the pandemic. The adverse experiences during the lockdowns and restrictions can damage the pillars of the brain, leading to development deficiencies.
Every experience, whether positive or negative, will have an impact on how children develop and how they see the world in the future. Newborns, toddlers, and even adolescents have very limited exposure to different cultures, traditions, people, and lifestyles. All they really have are the people around them. Without a solid foundation of these important pillars in their lives, they have nothing to depend on, much less draw strength from during turbulent times in the future.
Is It for the Long Term?
The question in every parent’s brain is this: is it for the long term? Are the effects of the pandemic on the development of children long term? Since the coronavirus pandemic has a chronic nature, the data will continue to evolve. This is something that experts will continue to study in the future. In the meantime, parents need to do what they can to halt the irreversible impact of the pandemic on their kids. Whether that’s bringing them to a daycare center or spending more time with them or scheduling playdates with other kids, the focus should be on the cognitive and social development of the kids.
It is heartbreaking to know that your kids will never be the same as other kids born before the pandemic. But hopefully, this pandemic is going to give them an advantage, too. They can be more resilient and far more resourceful when they become adults.