Scientists from Brown University in Rhode Island have found that Children born during the Covid pandemic may have lower IQs.
According to the research, babies born since March 2020 have worse cognitive, verbal and motor skills than children who entered the world before coronavirus and it maybe due to reduced interactions during lockdowns.
Average IQs for children aged three months to three years old dropped from around 100 in the decade before the pandemic to 79 during the pandemic.
The research adds that the drop in IQ was worse in boys and those from poorer backgrounds, scientists said.
Lockdowns have meant children have significantly less interaction with the outside world, leading to ‘shockingly’ low cognitive development.
Whether or not the fall in development will affect children in later life is uncertain, the researchers said. Babies’ brains are more malleable than adults and it is likely they will be able to recover.
Paediatrician Dr Sean Deoni, lead author of the study, said the drop-off in IQ scores was significant.
He told The Guardian: ‘It’s not subtle by any stretch. You don’t typically see things like that, outside of major cognitive disorders.’
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed and published on medrxiv, looked at 672 children in Rhode Island.
Of those, 308 were born before January 2019, 176 were born between January 2019 and March 2020 and 188 were born after July 2020.
Scientists tested the children on verbal, non-verbal and early-learning skills to assess their development.
All the children used for the research were born at full-term and were mostly white.
Experts found children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds like blacks and asians fared worse in the IQ tests.
Dr Deoni said: ‘Parents are stressed and frazzled. That interaction the child would normally get has decreased substantially.’
The authors wrote: ‘Fear of infection and possible employment loss has placed stress on parents, while parents who could work from home faced challenges in both working and providing full-time attentive childcare.
‘For pregnant individuals, fear of attending prenatal visits also increased maternal stress, anxiety, and depression.
‘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.
‘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.’
IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient and it is used to measure mental ability.
Historically, IQ is a score achieved by dividing a person’s mental age, obtained with an intelligence test, by their age.
The resulting fraction is then multiplied by 100 to obtain an IQ score. An IQ of 100 has long been considered the median score.