Less than 1/5 of parents recognise unique importance of age 0-5

The Royal Foundation has unveiled its newest findings of research into the public perceptions of early childhood development.

The Duchess of Cambridge’s Foundation, which aims to drive awareness of and action on the extraordinary impact of the early years, published the research based on a survey of 4,682 adults and over a 1,000 interviews with parents of children 0-5.

From these interviews and surveys it sought to understand the public perceptions of early childhood, focusing particularly on the prioritisation of the early years, the link between the first five years and lifelong outcomes for mental health and well-being, and the support parents seek when raising children.

The research found that:

  • Nine in ten agree the early years are important in shaping a person’s future life (91%), but less than a fifth (17%) recognise the unique importance of the zero-five period
  • Seven in ten think the early years should be more of a priority for society
  • The majority of the public (55%) recognise a person’s future mental health an wellbeing most likely part of adult life to be affected by their early childhood, followed by their ability to make and maintain relationships (51%) and their future happiness (40%)
  • Informal community support networks are key found to be crucial for parents, especially family and friends
  • Parents are more likely to seek support for a child’s physical wellbeing than social and emotional development

Speaking about the research, the Duchess of Cambridge said:

“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.

Purnima Tanuku, NDNA’s Chief Executive said of the report: “This research shows that there is a lot of public support for investing in children’s early years as people understand more about how it shapes children’s futures. However, there is clearly more to do as not enough people recognise just how crucial a child’s first five years are for their learning and development.

“We know that access to high quality early education and care stays with children through primary school and into their secondary education; it is vital in closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged children and shapes who they will become.

“During the pandemic we have seen children’s personal, social and emotional development suffer – especially among Covid-born babies. This is an area where children need more support right now, both at home and in formal early years settings.

“As well as providing great learning opportunities for children, early years settings like nurseries and preschools can be great sources of support to parents and carers both in providing direct advice around children’s development and also providing a community hub.

“Ministers need to support the early years sector as underfunding and rising costs are seeing nurseries close across the country. We need more investment in this crucial stage for our children and it is important to see that there is so much public support for this.

“NDNA is launching a big campaign First Five Years Count at our Nursery Conference next week. Our key aims are to raise awareness of the vital work that goes on to support children with their early development and learning and to encourage more talented people into the sector.”

You can download the full report here.

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