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Early years should be "more of a priority" for society

The British Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood has unveiled the findings of new research into early childhood development.

Conducted by Ipsos UK on behalf of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, the research comes two years after The Duchess of Cambridge’s landmark survey – ‘5 Big Questions on the Under-Fives’ – which attracted the largest ever response to a public survey of its kind with over 500,000 responses in one month, sparking a national conversation on the early years.

This recent research delves even deeper into public perceptions of early childhood, focusing on three key areas: the prioritisation of the early years, the link between the first five years of life and lifelong outcomes for mental health and wellbeing and the support parents seek when raising young children.

Several key findings were made, with researchers concluding there is near unanimous agreement (91%) that the early years are important in shaping a person’s future life, but only 17% recognise the unique importance of the 0 – 5 period relative to other age brackets.

That being said seven in ten (70%) believe it should be more of a priority for society as a whole.

Meanwhile, over half (55%) of the public recognise a person’s future mental health and wellbeing is the most likely part of adult life to be affected by their development in the early years, followed by their ability to make and maintain relationships (51%) and their future happiness (40%).

Informal sources of support are key support mechanisms for parents, with more than a half of parents of children 0-5 (56%) citing family or friends and as key sources of information on emotional and social development

It was also established that parents are more likely to seek out information and advice on key aspects of their child’s physical wellbeing (for example 35% on nutrition, 34% vaccinations, 33% on health) than they are on their social (21%) and emotional development (23%).

Speaking about the research, The Duchess of Cambridge said: Our experiences in early childhood fundamentally impact our whole life and set the foundation for how we go on to thrive as individuals, with one another, as a community and as a society.

“The findings published present us with a huge opportunity and demonstrate there is real appetite from the public to bring this issue up all of our agendas.

There is more we can all do – every member of society can play a key role, whether that is directly with a child or by investing in the adults around them – the parents, the carers, the early years workforce and more.”

Kelly Beaver MBE, Chief Executive of Ipsos UK and Ireland, said: “Although the majority of us agree that the experiences people have in childhood can have a significant impact on their future, a minority of Briton’s recognise the unique importance of the first five years of a child’s life.

“These formative years are crucial in the emotional, social and physical development of every child and this critical new research, for The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, provides the opportunity for society to ignite a discussion about how parents and children can be better supported during this period.”

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