CNC highlights support for young families will give children best start in life

Mother in hospital holding her new born baby

Evidence from CNC has shown that a child’s home environment during their early years has a lasting impact on their cognitive, social and emotional development.

Thanks to information you and your parents provided, researchers have made the case for government policy to focus on supporting families during their children’s first few years.

They suggest that children’s development would benefit most if families were supported with sufficient income and adequate housing, help with early parenting, and high-quality mental health care for both mothers and fathers.

What we asked you

When you were very young, we asked your parents questions about your family and home life, and their employment, education, health and wellbeing.

Other studies like CNC have also asked questions about home and family life in the early years, which helps researchers investigate whether child development had changed across generations.

Social inequalities

Researchers from the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and the Institute of Fiscal Studies found large inequalities in children’s development during the early years, strongly related to their socioeconomic background.

At age 3, they noticed that children from the most advantaged homes were more likely to have high cognitive ability and greater social and emotional skills than children from the most disadvantaged families.

They discovered that these inequalities in early child development were linked to differences in children’s home environments. Children from advantaged backgrounds tended to live in better housing and have access to more financial resources. They also had greater educational and emotional support than children from the most disadvantaged homes.

Why this research matters

Government initiatives introduced when your generation were growing up in the early 2000s, such as the Sure Start children’s centres, have been found to have had positive impacts on the most disadvantaged families and children. However, they also found that social inequalities have persisted for children born after you, suggesting more needs to be done.

The study’s authors noted that early years support has mostly gone to families with children over age 2. To tackle persistent inequalities in child development, resources should be targeted at supporting families even earlier, starting from pregnancy.

Read the full research report

‘Early childhood inequalities’, by Sarah Cattan, Emla Fitzsimons, Alissa Goodman, Angus Phimister, George B. Ploubidis and Jasmin Wertz was published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in June 2022.