Duchess of Cambridge presents findings on the early years in the UK

on 27 November 2020

The Duchess of Cambridge has presented findings of the UK’s biggest study on the early years, a landmark study commissioned by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and conducted by Ipsos MORI.

Parents who took part in the research answered questions about what they thought about the early years and how COVID-19 has impacted the perceptions and experiences of parents and carers of children under five years old.

The publication of the research follows nine years of work by the Duchess of Cambridge where she explored how difficult experiences in early childhood are often the root of the cause of key social challenges such as poor mental health, family breakdown, addiction and homelessness.

The study found that one in four parents and carers recognise the specific importance of the first five years of a child’s life and 70% of participants to the study said they felt judged by others.

It was also found there was a dramatic increase in loneliness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

98% of respondents to the 5 Big Questions believed that nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes.

90% of people see parental mental health and wellbeing as being a critical part of a child’s development, but do very little to prioritise themselves with only 10% saying they took the time to look after their own wellbeing.

37% also said they expected the COVID-19 pandemic to have a negative impact on their long-term mental health and wellbeing.

It was also reported that 70% of parents feel judged by others and nearly half of these respondents said it affected their mental health.

Loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic increased from 38% to 63% due to being cut off from friends and family, with the increase in loneliness being more apparent in the UK’s most deprived areas.

In her keynote speech about the research, the Duchess of Cambridge said: “Over the last decade I have met people from all walks of life. I have seen that experiences such as homelessness, addiction, and poor mental health are often grounded in a difficult childhood. But I have also seen how positive protective factors in the early years can play a crucial role in shaping our futures. The early years are not simply about how we raise our children. They are in fact about how we raise the next generation of adults. They are about the society we will become.”

The research received 527,898 responses to the ‘5 Big Questions on the Under-Fives’ globally and 435,141 responses in the UK.

Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Gill Walton welcomes this research saying: “The results of this survey really shine a light on how difficult experiences during childhood can often be the cause of poor mental health, homelessness and addiction. This really chimes with a report from the RCM published this week that recommends stepping up support for women who have experienced childhood trauma, those who are vulnerable or are suffering with their mental health, because often these women are at greater risk during pregnancy and need more support from their midwives.”

More information about The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge research can be found here.