Early child development as important as climate change, says Kate

The Duchess of Cambridge announces the Centre for Early Childhood

The Duchess of Cambridge says the issue of early childhood is the social equivalent of climate change and on Friday she is pledging to “transform lives” for future generations.

Kate believes the science on the early years of a child’s development does not receive the attention it deserves, given all the evidence which points to how the first five years of life affect the following 50.

Kate is launching the Centre for Early Childhood which will be run by her and Prince William’s charitable operation, The Royal Foundation.

Kate is launching the Centre for Early Childhood, run by her and William’s charitable operation, The Royal Foundation. Credit: PA

It is a decade since she started her work on the Early Years and linked the societal problems of addiction, poor mental health, violence and homelessness in adults to their development years as young children.

A royal aide said that Kate believes the issue “is not discussed with the same seriousness or strategic intent” as climate change and she is now on “a mission… so that she can help position this work with that sort of importance”.

It is been a decade since The Duchess started her work on the Early Years Credit: Kensington Palace

She hopes her work – and the new Centre for Early Childhood – will transform society for generations to come.

In a video message, Kate said: “My own journey into understanding the importance of early childhood actually started with adults, and not with children. It was about prevention.

“I’ve spoken to psychiatrists and neuroscientists, to practitioners and academics and parents alike, and what has become clear is that the best investment for our future health and happiness is in the first five years of life.

The Centre, which will be run by staff from the Royal Foundation, will commission further research into the social science surrounding the Early Years and raise awareness of its importance.

Last week, the Duchess hosted the First Lady of the United States at a visit to a school in Cornwall close to the G7 summit where they met four and five year olds and joined experts on child development from the UK and US.

The Duchess of Cambridge and US First Lady Jill Biden leading a discussion with representatives from the early years sector last week. Credit: PA

In a new report, Big Change Starts Small, the Duchess of Cambridge wrote: “What shapes our childhood shapes the adults and the parents we become.”

“Our first five years lay important foundations for our future selves.

"This period is when we first learn to manage our emotions and impulses, to care and to empathise, and thus ultimately to establish healthy relationships with ourselves and others."

The report estimated that the cost to society – from children in care to mental and physical health issues in adulthood – amounts to £16 billion per year in England alone.

Last year, Kate spearheaded a nationwide campaign called 5 Big Questions on the Under 5s which coincided in a survey which showed an alarming rise in parental loneliness during the lockdown and a widespread misunderstanding of the importance of early childhood development.