Children born during the coronavirus pandemic show reduced cognitive, motor, and verbal performance compared to children born before the pandemic, according to a new study.
The study, which was uploaded on medRxiv on Wednesday prior to its official publication, found that the pandemic has adversely affected the development of children even where there was no infection.
"Young infants and children are developing differently than pre-pandemic," the researchers wrote, adding that "addressing this now while their brains are at their most plastic and responsive, is imperative."
The researchers further stated that it was too soon to know whether this decline was temporary or permanent.
The decline was steeper among male children and children from families of low socio-economic status.
The researchers blamed changes in the children's environment, including lockdowns which prevented children from engaging in many regular activities as well as the effects the pandemic had on the adults around them, for the decline.
Researchers also cited an increase in maternal stress among pregnant women during the pandemic as a cause for an increase in developmental delays among children.
One complicating factor in the study was the inability of staff to question the children without wearing a mask. Young children are especially reliant on their ability to recognize facial expressions before they learn to talk, and the children in the study were often unable to discern the questioner's facial expressions due to the presence of a mask covering their lower face.