What do we know after two years?

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected children’s development?

April 27, 2022 | The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the daily lives of young children. How did these changes affect their development? Update on an issue worrying parents and experts.

During the pandemic, children have experienced disruptions and changes in routine. They miss out on opportunities to play, socialize, and learn. Since the early years is a very important time in development, Researchers have looked at the potential implications of this situation.

Silvana Cote, director of the Observatory for Children’s Education and Health, is also carrying out work supported by Quebec research funds to better understand the consequences of the pandemic on young children’s development.

What are the effects on development?

“We still have very little Quebec data,” says Silvana Cotet. somewhere else in the world, Some studies indicate that the epidemic has negatively affected the learning of preschool children, indicate.

For example, according to a study in Rhode Island, children born during an epidemic score lower than those born before when assessing their verbal and motor skills as well as their performance on cognitive tests.

The New York researchers also noted that babies born during the epidemic performed worse at 6 months of age when assessing their gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and social skills.

Moreover, after analyzing various preliminary studies on this topic, researchers from Illinois concluded that The pandemic has led to an increase in some problem behaviors In young children such as inattention, irritability, fear, clinginess, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

According to Australian scientists, the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children are Similar to those seen in other outbreaks In the past.

However, American researchers have found reassuring results By comparing children of different age groups. These researchers also noted slightly lower results in problem solving in children under 6 months of age and in communication in children 6 months and 12 months old. But, When they looked at all the children, the pandemic didn’t seem to have had any negative effects on them.

An increase in inequality?

According to Silvana Cottier, However, studies show that the effects depend on the child’s environment. “For example, parents have had to go to work outside in stressful situations,” she points out. These conditions are less favorable for the development of children. »

During their study, Rhode Island researchers noticed that Children from disadvantaged backgrounds were the hardest hit. On the contrary, a favorable environment appears to reduce the negative consequences of an epidemic.

According to Illinois scholars, Children who live in a warm and safe environment can increase their resilience From those who have already been neglected or abused. Additionally, parents who are stressed by work or financial difficulties may have more difficulty interacting with their children.

In their analysis, the Australian researchers concluded that The pandemic can thus increase social inequalities. “This is our main concern about the impact of COVID-19,” confirms Silvana Côté.

And what about the masks?

“We don’t know much about the effects of masks,” notes Silvana Cotet.

According to an experiment conducted in Massachusetts with babies aged 5 to 19 months, a mask a mother wears won’t interfere with her interaction with her baby, possibly because babies will rely on other cues such as look, sound, posture, and their mother’s gestures to communicate with her.

A study conducted in Wisconsin also showed that children can identify well with the feelings of the person they are confronting, even if that person is persuasive. So the mask will not interfere with social interactions.

“According to experts, the mask can pose a risk to some children with language learning difficulties, notes Silvana Kott. However, in children in general, there is no evidence that we should worry.”

Avoid long-term effects

Silvana Cote asserts, “Everyone has experienced disruptions in their daily lives during the pandemic. We cannot expect that there will be no consequences. However, It is the negative effects that persist over time that need to be watched. »

For the vast majority of children, Their resilience, coping and resilience mechanisms will ensure that they pass well Remarks by Silvana Cote.

According to the researcher, it is important to put in place safety nets for children who have experienced greater disruptions. ” We need to strengthen the systems that already exist, For example, access to quality preschool education services,” she insists.

For their part, parents can try to maintain as much of a good family routine as possible, such as exercising regularly, adopting healthy screen habits, and promoting a good night’s sleep. “It is also importantListen to your child and don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s doctor or teacher if you’re concerned Silvana Cote adds.

Sources: medRixv, Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, The Medical Journal of Australia, JAMA Pediatics, Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, The Lancet pre-print, PLOS One


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