Babies born during coronavirus lockdowns are reaching developmental milestones at a slower rate than those born outside of lockdowns, a new study suggests.
The study, posted this week in the peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ by researchers from the The Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, showed that babies born between March and May 2020 struggled to communicate at one year old, compared to babies born between 2008 and 2011.
Ireland was under strict lockdown measures for significant periods between spring 2020 and 2021.
According to the study, 89% of babies born between 2008 and 2011 were able to say a “meaningful word” by 12 months of age, compared to just 77% of infants who spent their first months cut off from the outside world at the start of the year. pandemic. Additionally, the number of babies able to point to objects increased from 93% to 84%, and those who could say goodbye increased from 94% to 88%.
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The study was based on questionnaire results from 309 parents of babies during the pandemic. Parents were asked about the different tasks their children could do on their first birthday. These results were then compared to a longitudinal study looking at the same skills between 2008 and 2021.
“The social isolation associated with the pandemic appears to have impacted the social communication skills of babies born during the pandemic compared to a historical cohort,” the study states. “Babies are resilient and curious by nature, and it is very likely that as society re-emerges and social circles increase, their social communication skills will improve. However, this cohort and others will need to be monitored until school age to ensure this is the case.”
One of the study’s authors, Dr Susan Byrne of the Royal College of Surgeons, told NBC News that a quarter of the babies in the study had not yet met another baby their age by their first birthday and that few people had come to their homes during the pandemic.
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“If no one comes to your house to leave, you’re not going to learn to say ‘Bye, bye,'” Byrne told the outlet.
Byrne added that babies could have been negatively affected by not engaging with stimulating objects outside of their own home, which they have already memorized.
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“Kids point because something fell and they want to find it, or they’re interested in something new and they want to see it,” Byrne explained. “Obviously, if you’ve been in your lovely house the whole time, you know everything. Nothing new.”
The study is the latest in a long line of data showing the negative effects coronavirus lockdowns have had on children, both in early development and in the classroom.
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In addition to the learning loss experienced by children during lockdowns, a recent study has shown that coronavirus-related restrictions also negatively impact children’s physical health and contribute to childhood obesity, particularly in low-income communities.