Duchess of Cambridge's 'milestone moment' study into children's early years

The Duchess of Cambridge will today publish the findings of the biggest ever public study into the crucial early years of a child’s life.

Scientists argue that what happens from pregnancy to age five will go on to shape the next 50 years of their lives.

But a survey of half a million people launched by Kate earlier this year, found that only one in four people recognise the importance of the Early Years – the first five years of life.

Kensington Palace called the project a “milestone moment” for the Duchess.

Kate talks about Early Years and her landmark survey 5 Big Questions on the Under Fives. Credit: PA

Kate toured the UK at the start of the year, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, to launch the project she had developed with the Royal Foundation called “Five Big Question’s on the Under-Fives”.

On Friday, Kate will reveal the “Five Big Insights” from the study.

The early years has been a major focus of the Duchess’ work since 2011 when she joined the Royal Foundation with Prince William, and previously Prince Harry.

The Foundation has been responsible for other wide-ranging campaigns, backed by the Royals, such as the mental health awareness project, Heads Together, and Harry’s sporting tournament for the military community, the Invictus Games.

William and Kate's current mental health work includes the Heads Together campaign. Credit: PA

The Duchess 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.”

Kate’s survey found 90% of people considered parental mental health as a critical factor in a child’s development and she plans to use the study to better support parents.

But a third of parents are expecting the Covid-19 pandemic to have a negative effect on their long-term wellbeing and a particular concern was raised about isolation due to the enforced absence of family support.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visiting Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn as part of the NHS birthday celebrations Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Parental loneliness has soared from 38% to 63% and yet many more parents still feel uncomfortable asking for help.

The impact of the pandemic has affected those parents in the most deprived parts of the UK, where the greatest concentrations of loneliness and isolation were found.

Kate spoke ahead of her keynote speech today: “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 CEO of the Royal Foundation, Jason Knauf, said: “Supporting the child starts with supporting the parent” but he added that “only 10 per cent of expectant parents mentioned taking time to look after themselves before their baby arrived”.

The Duchess of Cambridge Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

In total, 70% of parents say they feel they are being judged and half said that kind of treatment had taken an emotional toll.

“It’s important we make this a positive mission, giving parents encouragement in place of critique”, said Mr Knauf.

The Duchess hopes to spark a national conversation about the early years of a child’s life and this project will be the springboard for much of the work she will do in the coming years.

Of Kate’s future work, Jason Knauf said: “It has become her ambition to bring about change in this area.”

For help and advice on the challenges of parenting in lockdown, see: