(STUDY) Babies born during Covid pandemic ‘talk less, developing slower’

The following is an excerpt from Yahoo! News.

Infants born during the pandemic produced significantly fewer vocalizations and had less verbal back-and-forth with their caretakers compared to those born before Covid, according to independent studies by Brown University and a national nonprofit focused on early language development.

Both research teams used the nonprofit LENA’s “talk pedometer” technology to glean their findings. The wearable device delivers detailed information on what children hear throughout the day. It measures the number of words spoken near the child in addition to the child’s own language-related vocalizations.

It also counts child-adult interactions, called “conversational turns,” which both research groups say are critical to language acquisition.

“It is the conversational turns that drive brain development,” said Brown’s Sean Deoni, adding he’s concerned for the long-term success of children born after the pandemic began.

The joint finding is the latest troubling evidence of developmental delays discovered when researchers compared babies born before and after Covid.

LENA’s study showed child vocalizations dropped significantly across all groups of children, but particularly among those from the lowest socioeconomic level. The frequency of caregiver/child conversations also decreased dramatically, particularly among children from the poorest families, it found.

And while it’s true, both researchers acknowledged, that children are resilient, recent data does not yet reflect the bounceback from the pandemic.

“We are not seeing them hit a floor and all progressively get better,” Deoni said. “We are seeing them continue this downward trend.”

And it’s not just a language acquisition problem. Reduced verbal development is being driven by poor motor development, Deoni said: This early foundational skill could have a lasting impact on children, one that can be hard to correct for as they age. (Continued)

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