The Prince and Princess of Wales came to Boston last week, and one issue on the royal agenda was early childhood.

The princess, also known as Kate Middleton, visited Harvard to meet with researchers at the university’s Center on the Developing Child.

For Middleton, it was part of a long-standing commitment to young children. As the Royal Foundation for the Prince and Princess of Wales explains on its website:

“Over the last decade, The Princess of Wales has spent time looking into how experiences in early childhood are often the root cause of today’s hardest social challenges, such as addiction, family breakdown, poor mental health, suicide and homelessness.”

In 2020, The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (the prince and princess’ royal titles at the time) released a report on the public’s opinion of early childhood in the United Kingdom based on the responses of half a million people — and factoring in the impact of the pandemic. Among the report’s observations:

• many parents underestimate the importance of children’s early years

• “supporting the child starts with supporting the adult,” and

• parents believe that schools have a role to play in child development

Last year, the princess launched The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood to “drive awareness of and action on the extraordinary impact of the early years,” and how nurturing children during these years can “transform society for the future.”

The centre focuses on:

• commissioning and promoting high-quality research

• encouraging collaboration among the private, public, and volunteer sectors to develop new solutions, and

• creating and promoting positive change

The princess has also supported “the development of BBC Education’s Tiny Happy People – an initiative providing a range of free digital resources designed to support parents and carers [caregivers] in developing children’s language from pregnancy to the age of four.”

And last month, the princess wrote an op-ed that appeared in The Telegraph, where she explained:

“It is the way we develop through our experiences, relationships and interactions at that very young age that shapes everything from our ability to form relationships and succeed at work, to our mental and physical health as adults.

“There are fantastic examples of what can be achieved when we recognise the unique potential of early childhood and build a safe and loving world around a child.

“But not enough is being done. If we are going to tackle the sorts of complex challenges we face today like homelessness, violence, and addiction, which are so often underpinned by poverty and poor mental health, we have to fully appreciate those most preventative years and do everything we can to nurture our children and those who care for them.”

Of course, being a princess makes it easier to draw attention to a cause. But what’s striking about Middleton’s story is that she is – just like less famous advocates – sharing what she has learned in order to change the world. As the princess wisely concludes on the Royal Foundation’s website:

“The early years are not simply about how we raise our children. They are about the society we will become.”