Understanding early years: health and wellbeing

The evidence is compelling regarding the importance of early years and childhood experiences for healthy development and for health and well-being throughout an individual’s life course.  

It is widely agreed that early experiences are affected by a number of complex and interrelated factors including social and material circumstances; maternal physical and mental health; and family/household structure and function.  In relation to material circumstances, there is extensive evidence that poverty and social disadvantage exert a very powerful negative influence on the potential for children and families to thrive.   

The evidence around the importance of good parenting along with high quality early learning and childcare to support healthy attachment and child development is robust and growing all the time.  Positive, consistent, warm parenting, with firm boundaries and routines, supports children’s social and emotional development and reduces behavioural problems. 

However, the quality of parenting is itself affected by a range of factors – positive parenting is much more difficult for parents who are stressed/ depressed, financially insecure, experiencing addiction issues or adverse life circumstances. 

These factors are particularly relevant in Glasgow which remains the most deprived city and local authority area in Scotland and where one in three children live in poverty.  

There is also robust evidence that access to affordable, high quality early education and child care can help to improve outcomes for children from low-income families thus providing an important imperative for action by services and agencies.

Access further information relating to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and health inequalities on the Health Scotland website.

Early years in policy 

The Scottish Government has made early years a key priority through successive strategies and policies culminating, most recently, in the enactment of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 which is leading to significant change in the planning and delivery of health, social care and education services. 

Service providers now have a statutory duty to embed the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in all of their services for children and young people using ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ (GIRFEC) as the strategic policy framework.  From 2017, the Act will require local authorities and health boards to develop joint children’s services plans in co-operation with a range of other service providers and to identify a ‘Named Person’ for every child.

Children’s services plans now need to reflect the shift in emphasis from care and welfare services to planning in a way that details early intervention and promotes health and wellbeing against a range of wellbeing indicators. The Act also imposes a legal requirement to put in place a ‘child’s plan’ where targeted intervention is necessary. 

This legislation has been informed and supported by the work of the Scottish Government’s Early Years Collaborative (EYC) launched in October 2012 which has  called for transformational change in early years’ services and programmes. The EYC’s vision is that Scotland should be ‘the best place in the world to grow up and to bring up children.’  This vision supports and builds on the principles and priorities set out in ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ (GIRFEC) and the Early Years Framework.  

Early years research

Our research into excess mortality in Glasgow and Scotland has included a comprehensive analysis of longitudinal cohort survey data (and other data sources) to compare early years experiences between Scotland and England, and between residents of Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. Access the Poverty, parenting and poor health report.

More recent qualitative research commissioned by GCPH and conducted by the University of Stirling,  explored  the ways in which parents, carers and staff experienced a ‘nurture’ approach developed in nursery settings in Glasgow, and their perspectives on the impact that this approach has had on the wellbeing and development of young children and family engagement in learning. 

Download the summary briefing paper of the findings and the full report.

We are also looking at the early years in relation to poverty and inequalities - find out more about our child poverty research here.

Early years information

We know that we need  meaningful, accessible information to inform our early years policies, services and practice.  In June 2015, GCPH and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde jointly organised workshop to think about how we can utilise data sources and systems to build a more holistic and integrated picture of the impact of service delivery on children's lives, health and circumstances. 

Presentations from this event are available below and you can also download the event report.

To view the presentations, please click on the links below: 

Welcome from the Chair
Stephen McLeod, Head of Specialist Children’s Services, Glasgow City CHP (North East Sector) 
View the presentation

EMISWEB presentation
Karen McFadden, Programme Lead – Community Children’s Services, Glasgow City CHP
View the presentation 

Use of data in joint service departments
John Marshall, Project Director – Service Development, Glasgow City CHP (North East Sector)
View the presentations 

Child population health data and indicators
Fiona Crawford, Consultant in Public Health & Bruce Whyte, Public Health Programme Manager, Glasgow Centre for Population Health
View the presentation

Research and data linkage in the early years
Louise Marryat, Research Fellow, University of Glasgow
View the presentation