The Duchess of Cambridge says more needs to be done to protect children in their early years.
Announcing the results of the UK’s largest study into early childhood, the duchess said only a quarter of parents understand the critical importance of a child’s first five years.
She warned that poor parenting could lead to family breakdown, mental health problems, drug addiction and homelessness, adding that a “passive” approach to childhood misunderstood the future of society.
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.
“But I have also seen how positive protective factors in the early years can play a crucial role in shaping our futures… 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.”
More than 500,000 people responded to the duchess’ “five big questions on the under-fives” poll.
An analysis was then carried out by research firm Ipsos MORI.
It found that, while 90 per cent see mental health and wellbeing as critical to a child’s development, only 10 per cent of parents looked after their own wellbeing before the arrival of a child.
The study also showed the coronavirus pandemic has substantially increased parental loneliness, with 63 per cent of respondents reporting they felt isolated after lockdown.
The study, commissioned by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation, is seen as a key milestone for the duchess in her royal duties.
While the duchess did not directly call on the government for more action, those who worked with her said it was vital the findings were taken seriously.