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Kate Middleton clarifies misconception about royal passion project

The Duchess of Cambridge delivered one of her biggest royal speeches to date

Danielle Stacey

The Duchess of Cambridge has highlighted the crucial role early years play in raising the next generation of adults and shaping society, as the findings from her '5 Big Questions on the Under Fives' survey were published on Friday.

In one of her biggest speeches in her royal career to date, Kate outlined her reasons as to why she cares deeply about early years development. 

Speaking at the online Royal Foundation forum, the Duchess said: "People often ask why I care so passionately about the early years. Many mistakenly believe that my interest stems from having children of my own."

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WATCH: Kate Middleton delivers one of the biggest speeches of her royal career

The royal, who is mother to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, continued: "While of course I care hugely about their start in life, this ultimately sells the issue short.

"Parenthood isn't a prerequisite for understanding the importance of the early years.

"If we only expect people to take an interest in the early years when they have children, we are not only too late for them, we are underestimating the huge role others can play in shaping our most formative years too."

Kate has been the driving force behind the study – the largest of its kind in the UK on perceptions of early childhood – which reports that only one in four people recognise the key importance of the first five years of a child's life.

While 98 per cent believe that nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes, some 24 per cent think pregnancy to age five is the most pivotal period for health and happiness in adulthood.

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The Duchess of Cambridge during her keynote speech at the online forum

In her keynote speech, 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."

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Kate rewore a blue Reiss dress from her first royal speech as she shared one insight

At the end of her keynote speech, the Duchess of Cambridge said that next year she will announce ambitious plans to help elevate the importance of early childhood.

Throughout the day, the palace shared five videos on social media to highlight each of the five key points from the landmark research. 

In the first clip, the Duchess, speaking directly to the camera, said: "98 per cent of you said that nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes. But just one in four actually recognise the specific importance of the first five years of a child's life."

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The Duchess sharing insight two in a short video clip

Kate opted to wear a significant blue Reiss dress while sharing the first insight - the same outfit she donned for her first ever public speech to open EACH's Treehouse hospice in 2012.

In the second clip, the royal mum pinned the second finding on a piece of paper to a brick wall, which read: "90 per cent of you see parental mental health and wellbeing as being critical to a child's development."

An animation then added: "However, only 10 per cent said they take the time to look after their own wellbeing."

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Kate at a briefing with Kelly Beaver from Ipsos MORI

A third video showed the Duchess, wearing a polka dot blouse, writing down the third key insight: "70 per cent of parents feel judged by others and among these parents, nearly half feel this negatively impacts their mental health."

In the fourth short video, Kate revealed: "You have told us just how much you value the support of friends and family, but for much of this year, we've been separated from the people so many of us rely on.

"Parental loneliness has increased from 38 per cent, before the pandemic, to 68 per cent during it. And sadly, there's also been a rise in the number of people, who are uncomfortable seeking help."

The survey also found that while support from local communities has increased during this unprecedented year, parents in the most deprived areas are less likely to have experienced this increased support than elsewhere.

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The Duchess will also answer fans' questions on social media

Jason Knauf, chief executive of the Royal Foundation, said of Kate in the report's foreword: "Over the last nine years the Duchess of Cambridge has heard this first-hand from those who are tackling some of society's toughest challenges. 

"She has seen over and over again how often problems can be traced back to the earliest years of someone's life and it has become her ambition to bring about change in this area."

More than 500,000 people responded to the questionnaire at the start of 2020, making it the largest ever response to a public survey of its kind.

Kate promoted the survey between 22 January and 21 February, making visits to Cardiff, Birmingham, Woking, London, Belfast and Aberdeen.

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