Prof J Kiley Hamlin from the International Congress for Infant Studies calls into question a study showing impaired cognition in children, and says there is reason to be optimistic about their resilience
Results from a scientific paper have been racing around the internet like wildfire, perhaps because they confirm parents’ worst fears: infants born during the pandemic show a large and significant reduction in scores on a standard battery of cognitive development tests. Your report (Children born during pandemic have lower IQs, US study finds, 12 August) refers to these infants as having “shockingly low” scores, at levels not typically seen “outside of major cognitive disorders”. These are attributed to “lack of stimulation and interaction at home”, and it is suggested that children’s “ability to course-correct” may be limited.
The executive board of the International Congress for Infant Studies (ICIS) believes that drawing these sorts of conclusions from this unpublished article is premature and ill-advised. Without denying that there may be negative effects of being born in a pandemic, what we know about infant development suggests that the observed reduction in scores on the cognitive tests is not only implausible, but is also likely to stem from causes that have nothing to do with the main claim. Instead, infants may have performed less well on the test because it was administered by a stranger, wearing a face covering, in an unfamiliar environment – all of which would differentially impact the performance of babies born during the pandemic.