Research

We believe the case for early childhood starts with science and data. It's thanks to the work of researchers from all over the world that today we understand the importance of the early years and the greatest argument in favour of action is evidence. We've got to stay curious.

Big Change Starts Small

Our new report, Big Change Starts Small, draws on the best of the science to show why early childhood matters, where we are today and the opportunities that exist for positive change.

View the executive summary

View the recommendations

View the report

Kate pamphlet

Did you know?

The Royal Foundation has partnered with the London School of Economics to calculate the cost of lost opportunity in early childhood, and has found that in England alone we are paying at least:

£16.13
billon
per year

This is the cost to society of the remedial steps we take to address issues – from children in care to short and long-term mental and physical health issues – that might have been avoided through action in early childhood.

Our research

Over the last few years we have commissioned research in order to better understand the economic, social and scientific context of early childhood. By listening to the public and the experts, our aim is to change the way that people think about the issue. 

Big Change Starts Small

Parental loneliness survey

State of the Nation survey

Big Change Starts Small

This report is a summary of decades of science and research on early childhood and why it matters. It offers the perfect starting point for those wanting to delve deeper into the issue and understand the evidence which underpins this unique opportunity.

View the full report

Parental loneliness survey

In May 2021 we conducted a survey with YouGov to explore levels of loneliness amongst parents with young children in Britain.

Highlights:

1

Over half of all parents report feeling lonely either sometimes (36%), often (13%) or always (3%).

2

Parents of young children have continued to feel lonelier as the pandemic has continued; those who feel always/often lonely increased from 9% in October 2020 to 16% in May 2021.*

3

What concerns parents most about their loneliness is the impact on their mental health and well-being (46%), which is more of concern to women (55%) than to men (36%).

4

Over half of parents feel that contact in person with their friends and family is the most important way they could be supported when feeling lonely (59%).

5

When asked what parents want their friends and family to do, 23% said they just wanted them to text, call or reach out more frequently, highlighting that there are really simple ways we can all help parents we know with young children to feel less lonely and to support their well-being.

*

In October 2020 Ipsos MORI conducted an online survey of 1,000 parents of 0–5-year-olds which asked how often they felt lonely, with 9% responding “Always/Often”. In the May 2021 YouGov online survey, 1,430 parents of 0–5-year-olds were also asked how often they felt lonely, with 3% responding “Always” and 13% responding “Often”.

duchess talking to children and parents in northern ireland

State of the Nation survey

Over the course of 2019–2020 we commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct research into public attitudes and understanding of the early years. In November 2020 we published State of the Nation: Understanding Public Attitudes to the Early Years, the biggest UK survey on the early years. This landmark research included the findings of the 5 Big Questions, which over half a million people responded to, as well as qualitative and ethnographic research, a nationally representative quantitative survey conducted before the pandemic and a follow-up survey on the impact on families of COVID-19.

State of the Nation 5 Big Insights:

Answering the 5 Big Questions, 98% of people believe that nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes, but just one in four recognises the specific importance of the first five years of a child’s life.

98%

According to the survey, 90% of people see parental mental health and well-being as critical to a child’s development, but in reality people do very little to prioritise themselves. Only 10% of parents mentioned taking the time to look after their own well-being when asked how they had prepared for the arrival of their baby. Worryingly, over a third of all parents (37%) expect the COVID-19 pandemic to have a negative impact on their long-term mental well-being.

10%

Some 70% of parents feel judged by others, and among these parents nearly half feel that this negatively affects their mental health.

70%

Parental loneliness has dramatically increased during the pandemic, from 38% before to 63% as parents have been cut off from friends and family. The increase in loneliness for parents is more apparent in the most deprived areas. Compounding this, it seems that there has been a rise in the proportion of parents who feel uncomfortable seeking help for how they are feeling, from 18% before the pandemic to 34% during it.

Group 1772

Across the UK, communities have united powerfully to meet the challenges of unprecedented times, and 40% of parents feel that community support has grown. However, parents in the most deprived areas are less likely to have experienced this increased support (33%) than elsewhere.

40%