Face masks harm children’s development: study blames them for “dramatically reduced” development

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Social distancing measures, including face masks, are believed to drop young children’s development by up to 23% during the COVID pandemic, according to a new study.

Brown University scientists Sean CL Deoni, Jennifer Beauchemin, Alexandra Volpe and Viren D’Sa wrote the review, working with global consulting firm Resonance, collecting data from 1,600 children – and their guardians – who were enrolled in the study between the ages of 0 and 5 on a rolling basis.

The probe analyzed the cognitive development of young people during infancy, childhood and adolescence, and examined how average developmental scores in three key areas had been affected during the COVID era – with shocking results.

The report found that there had been a 23% drop in scores measuring children’s IQs since the start of the pandemic. The results showed that the composite average score of early learning fell 23%, from a high of just under 100 in 2019 to 77 in 2021.

In the study, researchers first analyzed 1,070 assessments given to 605 children before March 2020, when lockdowns and COVID masking began.

Then, 154 other assessments of 118 children administered between March 2020 and June 2021, at the height of the pandemic, were carried out.

Meanwhile, 39 children born in 2018 and 2019 were analyzed during the pandemic, until 2021.

The team then performed checks on three widely accepted measures of child development – the Early Learning Composite (ELC), Verbal Developmental Quotient (VDQ), and Nonverbal Developmental Quotient (NVDQ).

A child’s early learning composite is derived from their fine motor, visual reception, receptive and expressive language scales, and is the early years equivalent of an IQ score.

The two developmental quotients measure a child’s degree of maturity in language and other skills compared to a sample of young people his age.

The study's findings come as parents around the world grapple with the idea that wearing masks can interfere with their young children's natural learning experiences and communication skills.

The study’s findings come as parents around the world grapple with the idea that wearing masks can interfere with their young children’s natural learning experiences and communication skills.

The results showed that the composite average score of early learning fell 23%, from a high of just under 100 in 2019, to around 80 in 2020, and finally to 77 in 2021.

Meanwhile, the verbal development quotient has also dropped dramatically, dropping from an average of 100 in 2018 to just under 90 in 2020, and around 70 in 2021.

The nonverbal development quotient has also seen a similar decline, dropping from an average score of around 105 in 2019, to 100 in 2020, and to around 80 in 2021.

The study concluded that “children born during the pandemic significantly reduced their overall verbal, motor and cognitive performance compared to children born before the pandemic.”

“Additionally,” the report adds, “masks worn in public places and at school or daycare can impact a range of early developing skills, such as attachment, facial treatment and socio-emotional treatment “.

The study showed that children's ability to communicate using subtle, non-verbal cues also declined significantly, from an average score of around 105 in 2019 to 80 in 2021.

Results measuring children's verbal development quotient have also dropped dramatically, from an average of 100 in 2018 to just under 90 in 2020, and around 70 in 2021.

Two tests determining children’s development quotients were also carried out, illustrating marked declines since the start of the pandemic in children’s maturity in their language and other skills compared to a sample of young people their age.

The authors said boys from disadvantaged backgrounds were most at risk for lower cognitive test scores, with wealthier parents being better able to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

They explained: “By comparing the annual mean scores since 2011, controlling for age, sex, demographic and socio-economic indicators, we find striking evidence of the decline in children’s overall cognitive functioning from 2020 and onwards. ‘in 2021.

“We find that men appear to be significantly more affected than women, and that higher socioeconomic status (SES, as measured by mother’s education) helps mitigate this negative impact.

“On a more individual level, we looked at longitudinal trends before and during the pandemic in the same children from 2018 to 2021, again finding declines in capacity in 2020 and 2021.”

The study’s findings come as parents around the world grapple with the idea that wearing masks can interfere with their young children’s natural learning experiences and communication skills.

“There are sensitive periods in early childhood development when language development and emotional development develop very rapidly during the first years of life,” Ashley Ruba, postdoctoral researcher at the Child Emotion Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. .

The doctor added that developing children need to see the subtle verbal or facial cues of others in order to accurately discern how someone is feeling – a skill that proves to be paramount as the youngster ages.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the landscape of child health, with mothers and pregnant individuals, and children living in a remarkably different economic, psychosocial and educational environment from what was present just 18 years ago. months, ”says the study.

Additionally, not being able to see someone’s face also prevents children from determining whether something or a situation is safe or dangerous, Ruba added.

That said, masks may not be a cause of the drastic reduction in children’s cognitive abilities, the study says, adding that there is likely a range of factors related to the pandemic that can be blamed for the decline – in particular. the lack of social interactions between young people still in development.

This came after schools for in-person learning were closed, with many experts blaming a lack of social contact for a boom in children’s mental health issues, and some areas experiencing an increase in the number of suicides among young people.

COVID infections tend to be harmless to young children, with only 731 confirmed COVID deaths recorded for young people aged 0 to 18 from March 2020 to November 24, 2021, according to CDC figures.

This has seen many parents calling for most restrictions to be lifted for children, especially since children aged five and over can now get vaccinated.

Those who want children to remain masked say there is no way to know if a perfectly healthy child may have a serious COVID infection. They also point out how children may not get seriously ill, but could still pass the infection on to an adult such as a parent, grandparent, or teacher who may be suffering from severe or even fatal symptoms.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the landscape of child health, with mothers and pregnant individuals, and children living in a remarkably different economic, psychosocial and educational environment from what was present just 18 years ago. month.

“In this environmental context, questions remain unanswered regarding the impact of working from home, shelter in place and other public health policies that limit social interactions and typical childhood experiences on the neurological development of the patient. early childhood.”

He adds: “While socio-economic factors seem to mitigate the negative consequences of the pandemic, the main factors underlying our observed trends remain unknown.

“Understanding these factors is essential to ensure that affected children bounce back as the pandemic ends and return to daycares and schools; as well as the implementation of additional public health and education policies that target the most affected children, especially those from low-income families. ‘

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