Duchess of Cambridge to warn of crucial role early years plays in shaping society as landmark study unveiled

The Duchess of Cambridge will warn of the crucial role early years play in raising the next generation of adults and shaping society, as her landmark research on the issue is published.

Kate has been the driving force behind the study, which is the largest of its kind in the UK on perceptions of early childhood.

Its findings show that only one in four people recognise the key importance of the first five years of a child’s life.

While 98 per cent believe that nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes, some 24 per cent think pregnancy to age five is the most pivotal period for health and happiness in adulthood.

The duchess will deliver a keynote speech, hailed as a passionate and personal address, at an online Royal Foundation forum to discuss the study on Friday.

It is understood the duchess will come across in a new light as she sets out her commitment to the issue.

The research has been hailed a “milestone moment” for Kate, and will be used to shape her future focus on early years development.

Kensington Palace said next year the duchess will announce ambitious plans to help elevate the importance of early childhood.

More than half-a-million people took part in the Royal Foundation’s “five big questions on the under-fives” poll which was carried out by Ipsos MORI and produced the largest-ever response from the public to a survey of its kind.

Although 90 per cent see parental mental health and wellbeing as critical to a child’s development, only 10 per cent of parents took time to look after themselves when they prepared for the arrival of their baby, the research says.

The study – which has produced five key insights – also showed that the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased parental loneliness, with 38 per cent experiencing this before the crisis, and 63 per cent – almost two-thirds – after the first lockdown, a jump of 25 per cent.

The duchess will say in her keynote address: “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.”

Kate has made early years development one of the main pillars of her public role since she first became a member of the royal family.

The survey aims to encourage a nationwide conversation on the subject and raise awareness of how the first five years of a child’s life will impact the next 50 years.

Scientific consensus shows it is considered the most pivotal age for development, future health and happiness, compared to any other single period, the report says.

Kensington Palace described it as a “milestone moment” for the duchess’s work in this area.

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