Seven in ten people say the early years should be more of a priority for society

New research for the Royal Foundation shows the need to increase action and awareness on the importance of the early years of childhood.

The author(s)

  • Steven Ginnis Public Affairs
  • Sylvie Hobden Public Affairs
  • Kelly Beaver MBE Chief Executive, UK and Ireland
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  • Nine in ten agree the early years are important in shaping a person’s future life but less than a fifth recognise the unique importance of the 0-5 period
  • Seven in ten think the early years should be more of a priority for society
  • Majority of public recognise a person’s future mental health and wellbeing most likely part of adult life to be affected by their early childhood
  • Community support networks found to be a crucial for parents
  • Parents more likely to seek support for child’s physical wellbeing than social and emotional development

The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood has today unveiled the findings of new research into early childhood development, as The Duchess of Cambridge and the Centre host a roundtable with the early years sector, Ministers and senior civil servants to discuss the results and the broader importance of early childhood development to society. 

Conducted by Ipsos UK on behalf of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, the research comes two years after The Duchess’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. 

The research published today 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.

Key findings in detail:

  1. A societal issue: 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. 
  2. Mental health and wellbeing: 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%). 
  3. Communities of support: 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 
  4. Information and advice: 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 today 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. 

“If we come together to raise the importance of early childhood development, we’ll soon see that healthy, happy individuals make for a healthier, happier world. Which is why every second we spend with a child, is an investment in our collective future.

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.

Technical note: 

  • Ipsos interviewed 4,682 adults aged 16+ across the UK through their online Ipsos i-Say panel from the 21st April – 5th May 2022. 
  • From these responses, they present nationally representative results from interviews with the general population based on 4,002 interviews. Data were weighted by gender, age, region, working status and ethnicity. 
  • Separately, they present results from interviews with parents of children aged 0-5 based on 1,114 interviews. This includes 434 parents of children aged 0-5 from the general population sample, and a boost of a further 680 interviews. Data were weighted by gender, age and ethnicity.

The author(s)

  • Steven Ginnis Public Affairs
  • Sylvie Hobden Public Affairs
  • Kelly Beaver MBE Chief Executive, UK and Ireland

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