Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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Social communication skill attainment in babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic: a birth cohort study

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posted on 2022-11-07, 16:39 authored by Susan ByrneSusan Byrne, Hailey Sledge, Ruth Franklin, Fiona BolandFiona Boland, Deirdre M. Murray, Jonathan HourihaneJonathan Hourihane, CORAL Study group

Introduction: The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic was managed with sustained mass lockdowns to prevent spread of COVID-19 infection. Babies born during the early stages of the pandemic missed the opportunity of meeting a normal social circle of people outside the family home.

Methods: We compared 10 parentally reported developmental milestones at 12-month assessment in a cohort of 309 babies born at the onset of the pandemic (CORAL cohort) and 1629 babies from a historical birth cohort (BASELINE cohort recruited between 2008 and 2011).

Results: Compared with a historical cohort, babies born into lockdown appeared to have some deficits in social communication. Fewer infants in the pandemic cohort had one definite and meaningful word (76.6% vs 89.3%), could point (83.8% vs 92.8%) or wave bye-bye (87.7% vs 94.4%) at 12-month assessment. Adjusted log-binomial regression analyses demonstrated significant differences in social communication in the CORAL cohort compared with the BASELINE cohort: one definite and meaningful word (relative risk (RR): 0.86 (95% CI: 0.80 to 0.92)), pointing (RR: 0.91 (95% CI: 0.86 to 0.96)) and waving bye-bye (RR: 0.94 (95% CI: 0.90 to 0.99)).

Discussion: Parentally reported developmental outcomes in a birth cohort of babies born into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic may indicate some potential deficits in early life social communication. It must be noted that milestones are parentally reported and comparison is with a historical cohort with associated limitations. Further studies with standardised testing is required to validate these findings.

Conclusion: Pandemic-associated social isolation may have impacted on the social communication skills in babies born during the pandemic compared with a historical cohort. Babies are resilient and inquisitive by nature, and it is hoped that with societal re-emergence and increase in social circles, their social communication skills will improve.


Temple Street Hospital Foundation in Dublin, Ireland

Clemens Von Pirquet Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Byrne S, et al. Social communication skill attainment in babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic: a birth cohort study. Arch Dis Child. 2022:archdischild-2021-323441.

Publication Date

11 October 2022

PubMed ID



  • Paediatrics
  • FutureNeuro Centre
  • Data Science Centre


BMJ Publishing Group Ltd & Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.


  • Published Version (Version of Record)