Since the first reports of novel coronavirus in the 2020, public health organizations have advocated preventative policies to limit virus, including stay-at-home orders that closed businesses, daycares, schools, playgrounds, and limited child learning and typical activities. 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. Not surprising, there has been concern over how these factors, as well as missed educational opportunities and reduced interaction, stimulation, and creative play with other children might impact child neurodevelopment. Leveraging a large on-going longitudinal study of child neurodevelopment, we examined general childhood cognitive scores in 2020 and 2021 vs. the preceding decade, 2011-2019. We find that 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-19 illness, the environmental changes associated COVID-19 pandemic is significantly and negatively affecting infant and child development.
Competing Interest Statement
The authors have declared no competing interest.
Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health (SCD). Neither funder played any role in the acquisition, analysis or interpretation of the data, or was involved in the drafting or approval of this manuscript.
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All data were acquired in accordance with ethical approval and oversight by the Rhode Island Hospital institutional review board, with informed consent obtained from all parents or legal guardians.
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