In a video announcing the launch, posted to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Twitter on Friday, Kate said The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood hopes to “change the way we think about early childhood and transform lives of generations to come”.
Describing her motivations behind opening the centre, the Duchess said: “I wanted to understand what more we could do to help provide some of today’s toughest social challenges and what more we could do to help with the rising rates of poor mental health.”
The mother of three consulted with psychiatrists, neuroscientists, general practitioners, academics and other parents ahead of the launch.
“What has become clear is that the best investment for our future health and happiness is in the first five years of life,” she said.
The centre's early research, which has been published in its first report, Big Change Starts Small, found that the first five years of childhood shape some of the challenges people face in adulthood, such as addiction, poor mental health, difficult family dynamics and tendencies toward violence.
“From pregnancy onwards, the context in which we develop matters too. Supporting healthy development in early childhood goes far beyond looking after the physical needs of babies and infants.
“Our earliest relationships, environments and experiences can profoundly shape the developing brain, which is characterised by exceptional plasticity during this period. This, in turn, influences the adults we become and also how we parent the next generation,” the report said.
The opening of the centre comes after Kate launched a UK-wide online survey into early childhood in January 2020. The landmark survey, titled Five big questions on the under fives, asked parents questions about how the next generation of children should be raised.
In November 2020, she published the survey results, finding that only one in four people recognise the importance of the first five years of a child’s life.