Kate Middleton Is Recruiting Babies Born in the 2020s — Here's Why

The Duchess of Cambridge went on a fact-finding trip to a university to talk about the latest study into the first five years of children’s lives

The Duchess Of Cambridge Meets With Leading Researchers To Discuss New Holistic Study Into The Early Years
Kate Middleton on her visit in London on Tuesday. Photo: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Kate Middleton is taking the next steps in her long-running project to help children and families.

The Duchess of Cambridge headed out early on Tuesday to visit a university to learn more about crucial research being taken into the wellbeing of young children.

She has made the area focusing on the first five years of kids' lives as a key part of her public work and said today, "Our early childhoods shape our adult lives and knowing more about what impacts this critical time is fundamental to understanding what we as a society can do to improve our future health and happiness."

The Duchess Of Cambridge Meets With Leading Researchers To Discuss New Holistic Study Into The Early Years
Kate Middleton at the university on Tuesday morning. JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Her visit to University College London's Centre for Longitudinal Studies came as the institution launched its Children of the 2020s project, which will track the holistic development of children from 9 months to 5 years.

In a statement, Kate called it a landmark study that "will illustrate the importance of the first five years and provide insights into the most critical aspects of early childhood, as well as the factors which support or hinder positive lifelong outcomes."

The Duchess Of Cambridge Meets With Leading Researchers To Discuss New Holistic Study Into The Early Years
Kate Middleton at the library of the university on Tuesday. JUSTIN TALLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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"I am committed to supporting greater in-depth research in this vital area and I'm delighted to be meeting all those behind the study at this early stage."

Earlier this year, the duchess announced the new Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, which she and her staff hope will increase awareness of and action on the extraordinary impact of the early years.

The Duchess Of Cambridge Meets With Leading Researchers To Discuss New Holistic Study Into The Early Years
Kate Middleton at the university on Tuesday. Alamy Stock Photo

During her visit on Tuesday morning, Kate viewed some of the historic research into early childhood dating back to the 1940s — including a 'Birth Questionnaire' given to new mothers in 1958. That survey included questions about pregnant women's smoking habits, which enabled researchers to track the impact that smoking during pregnancy had on a baby's birth weight and how it continued to affect different aspects of a child's life into adulthood. This led to a public health campaign to stop women smoking whilst pregnant, Kate's office said.

During a roundtable discussion, the duchess, 39, was shown graphs charting brain development from early childhood to early adulthood and how the environment plays a crucial role, as well as how a higher socio-economic status correlates to a greater amount of gray matter in a young child's brain. Another slide explained how the study would look at factors like parental mental health, trauma, life events, stressors and regional and neighborhood characteristics in relation to child development.

She asked the experts, "Which countries do we feel are leading on this? Which countries have a successful model we could be learning from?"

Professor Pasco Fearon, Chair in Developmental Psychopathology and Principal Investigator of the Children of the 2020s study, told Kate: "I have to say, the U.K. is not bad. We do have some brilliant programs for young children."

Alissa Goodman, Professor of Economics and Director of the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, told reporters after the event that Kate "asks the most pertinent questions. ... It really shows that she is really interested in the subject because she is extremely knowledgeable. It's like speaking to a colleague really."

The Duchess Of Cambridge Meets With Leading Researchers To Discuss New Holistic Study Into The Early Years
Kate Middleton on Tuesday. Neil Mockford/GC Images

Researchers at the university want to understand how a wide range of factors impact children's social, cognitive and early language development, as well as their mental health and readiness for school. And their new study will look at the factors that affect children's development and education in the early years, including their home environment, the community, early years services and the broader social and economic circumstances of the family.

The research is the latest in a long line of birth cohort studies in the U.K. and will begin recruiting up to 8,000 families in January 2022 for babies born in April, May and June 2021, Kate's office at Kensington Palace said.

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