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Childhood without other children: a generation is raised in quarantine

This is the case of Erinn and Craig Sheppard, parents of 15-month-old Rhys, who live in Santa Monica, California. They are especially careful because they live near the grandmother of the little boy, who is 80 years old. Ms Sheppard said Rhys had played with “zero” children since the start of the pandemic.

“We get to the park, we Clorox the swing and he rides and he has a good time and loves being outside and he is pointing fingers at other kids and other parents like a toddler would,” she says. But they don’t commit.

One night, Rhys was being carried to bed when he started to wave. Ms Sheppard realized he was looking at the wall calendar which has babies on it. It happens regularly now. “He’s beckoning babies on the wall calendar,” Ms. Sheppard said.

Experts in child development said it would be helpful to start researching this generation of children to learn more about the effects of relative isolation. There is a distant precedent: Research published in 1974 followed children who experienced another time that rocked the world, the Great Depression. The study offers reasons for hope.

“To an unexpected degree, the study of children of the Great Depression followed a trajectory of resilience into the middle years of life,” wrote Glen Elder, the author of this research.

Brenda Volling, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and an expert in social and emotional development, said one of the takeaways is that the children of the depression-era who were doing the best came from families who more easily coped with the economic fallout and therefore were less hostile, angry and depressed.

To that end, what infants, toddlers and other children growing up in the Covid era need most now is a stable, nurturing and loving interaction with their parents, Dr Volling said.