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Early Years Family Support

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:51 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Conservative, South Northamptonshire 3:51 pm, 16th July 2019

Of course on one level the hon. Lady is right: having a safe place for families to meet and receive particular interventions is important. But it is not the whole picture. I will expand on that in my remarks.

Let us look briefly at some of the facts we know. First, 67% of the UK population has had at least one adverse childhood experience—one in eight people have had four or more. Secondly, this predicts certain risks for those one in eight, such as a three times greater risk of lung disease through smoking; an 11 times greater likelihood of intravenous drug use; 14 times the number of suicide attempts; and a four and a half times greater chance of developing depression. Thirdly, people with six or more adverse childhood experiences can die as much as 20 years earlier than those who have none.

Fourthly, where domestic violence is present in the home, there is an increased risk of child maltreatment. In one study, families where domestic violence takes place were shown to be 23 times more likely to abuse their under-five-year-olds than families without. Research shows that about 30% of domestic violence begins during pregnancy. Fifthly, it is understood that conduct disorder in young children leads to adult antisocial personality disorder in about 50% of cases, and is associated with a wide range of adverse long-term outcomes, particularly criminality.

Of course, we are all aware, every day, of growing levels of mental ill health among young people, as well as the self-harming and eating disorders that are blighting too many young lives. So it is pretty obvious to all those with a passion for the earliest years why this issue matters—not just to the individual, but to society as a whole. For all the good that a free education can do, for all the good of quitting smoking, for all the benefits of rehabilitation programmes, we will never truly turn society around and break the cycle of deprivation until we prevent those acute problems that begin in the 1,001 critical days.

I should give a “health warning” about all this. Let me say that I am in no way suggesting that insecure attachment always leads to disastrous outcomes. It is possible for a baby who was insecurely attached in infancy to grow up to lead a perfectly normal and happy life, but there is also significant evidence that a troubled early life makes that so very much harder.