The Largest Ever Study on the Early Years

At the end of 2020, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, revealed the outcomes of the largest public study ever conducted on the early years.

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As part of her extensive work to highlight the importance of the early years — not only on the adult life of the individual, but upon society as a whole — the survey used both online and in-person surveys, interviews and observational research. Almost half a million people from across the UK responded.

The way we view the early years has a huge impact on the quality of education and care we provide to young children. So, in light of this, I wanted to share with you a couple of the key findings from this study, and take a little look at how MEplace is using this information to give the coming generations the very best chances at life.

We need to cultivate more support systems for parents.

The study looked at not only children, but their parents, too. It raised concerns about the wellbeing of parents, addressing how difficult many find it to prioritise their own wellbeing, and the negative impact this could have upon their children.

While 93% agreed that looking after themselves is important for the health and happiness of their child, only 10% of expectant mothers said they had taken time to care for their own wellbeing.

Furthermore, the study looked at levels of loneliness among parents, both before and after lockdown hit. Loneliness is associated with poorer mental and physical health, so, it is concerning that, pre-lockdown, 38% reported feeling lonely. This rose to a whopping 63% post-lockdown.

What this really highlighted was the need for more support networks for parents. Many reported difficulty seeking help or advice around parenting, especially when they had smaller support networks. These same parents were more likely to report higher levels of stress and loneliness.

Here at MEplace, we want to end these feelings of having to ‘go it alone’. There’s a reason that we call our network ‘MEfamily’: we are there for you. Parenting is hard, and it’s stressful, and sometimes it can feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. By bringing together our family of parents, carers, teachers and psychologists, we want to let parents know that they have a place to go for help and advice.

There are large gaps in parental knowledge about the importance of the early years.

A key focus of the study was to compare scientific consensus to public opinion. The results simply did not line up.

There is copious scientific evidence proving that the first five years of life are crucial, and will go on to shape our lives as adults. Within the first two years, the brain develops at incredible speed.

However, this study found that only 3 in 10 parents knew this was the most important period for adult health and happiness. This means that 70% of parents are not aligned with the scientific consensus.

The reasoning for this does appear to be a lack of shared information. Most parents were recorded saying they watched for physical signs to track their baby’s progress, such as talking or walking. Presumably because babies do not outwardly show many signs of their social and emotional development in the first 18 months, 24% did not recognise that their actions during this period could impact upon their child’s future. Researchers speculated that this could be leading to a ‘passive’ approach to parenting, where the focus is upon physical needs, not as well as- but in place of- social and emotional needs.

This led researchers to conclude that:

“These findings highlight the need for improved translation and increased accessibility of scientific research to parents.”

And this is really at the heart of MEplace’s work.

Our content creators are a diverse team, taking skills and knowledge from psychology, creative writing and design. We work diligently to take information on developmental psychology and make it fully accessible.

Through the MEplace App, parents have the opportunity to learn about everything from attachment theory to the effects of self-beliefs. All this information is given through easy, bite-size audio pieces, using stories and anecdotes to help parents see how these theories work in practice, as well as on paper.

We want to close the gap between science and parenting, empowering parents with the knowledge, skills and support they need to raise happy, healthy children.

This study has raised a huge number of issues and areas for improvement, and we will continue to use this information to improve our work. Keep an eye on our App and media channels in the coming months — we have a lot planned!

For more information, you can read the full summary of this survey here.

Lizzie Corscaden
Content Creator at MEplace

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