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Pandemic Had Modest Effect on Early Childhood Development Milestones

Pandemic Had Modest Effect on Early Childhood Development Milestones
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MONDAY, April 22, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Modest changes were seen in early childhood development milestone achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online April 22 in JAMA Pediatrics.

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Sara B. Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a cohort study using an interrupted time-series analysis comparing prepandemic (March 1, 2018, to Feb. 29, 2020), interruption (March 1 to May 31, 2020), and intrapandemic (June 1, 2020, to May 30, 2022) periods among 50,205 children aged 0 to 5 years. Data were included from 134,342 Age-standardized Ages and Stages Questionnaire, Third Edition (ASQ) observations.

The researchers found that from prepandemic to intrapandemic, significant age-specific mean score decreases were observed in communication, problem-solving, and personal-social domains (−0.029, −0.018, and −0.016, respectively) in adjusted models. From prepandemic to intrapandemic, no changes were seen in fine or gross motor domains. Similar effect sizes were seen for infants aged 0 to 12 months for communication and problem-solving domains (−0.027 and −0.018, respectively). Compared with the prepandemic period, in the intrapandemic period, caregiver worries about the child increased slightly after accounting for age-standardized ASQ scores (rate ratio, 1.088); no changes were seen in caregiver concerns about the child’s behavior. Modest changes in developmental screening scores were seen (2 to 3 percent), but this could translate to more than 1,500 additional recommended developmental referrals over baseline each month nationwide.

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“Our findings provide reason for cautious optimism about the development of a generation of children exposed to the pandemic,” the authors write.

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Abstract/Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)



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