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Babies born during pandemic-era lockdowns have ‘deficits’ in social communication: study

Researchers found that babies born into lockdown had “deficits” in communication and other social skills compared to those born pre-Covid.

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Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
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A new study out of Ireland has shone a light on the social development of pandemic-era babies, whose crucial first year was spent in an environment altered by Covid-19 restrictions. 

Researchers found that babies born into lockdown had “deficits” in communication and other social skills compared to those born pre-Covid. 

The study measured ten developmental milestones at the one-year mark in 309 babies born between March and May 2020, then compared them to data gathered from a cohort of 1,629 babies born between 2008 and 2011. 

Results showed that fewer pandemic-era babies had, after twelve months, been able to speak one definite and meaningful word, point, or wave “bye-bye.”

Just 76.6 percent of babies in the cohort raised in lockdown were reported to have reached the speaking milestone compared to 89.3 percent from the earlier cohort. Only 83.8 percent could point, down from 92.8 percent. The gap was slightly smaller, however, when it came to waving, at 87.7 percent and 94.4 percent, respectively.

Based on the data, researchers concluded that, “pandemic-associated social isolation may have impacted on the social communication skills in babies born during the pandemic compared with a historical cohort.”

They added that as society opens up again, babies’ social skills are likely to improve, given that they “are resilient and inquisitive by nature.”

The study only analyzed babies from Ireland, where restrictions were extremely tight. According to the researchers, between March 2020 and April 2021, the timeline of the study, Ireland was under Level 5 lockdown, meaning no visitors to the home, no leaving home unless necessary or for exercise within 5km, and no social gatherings outside.

As a result, babies “missed the opportunity of meeting a normal social circle of people outside the family home, including other babies and grandparents,” thus impacting their social skills.

Researchers noted that in addition to socialization issues, lockdown babies also faced challenges related to speaking and motor skills.

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