You are on page 1of 4


What is child neglect?

Child neglect is another form of child abuse. It involves the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or
psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health, physical, emotional or mental
If a parent or caregiver fails to act to prevent harm to a child, or their failure to act exposes the child to imminent harm,
that is neglect too.

Child neglect can come in many forms, from mild to severe neglect.

In a case of mild neglect, such as a kid not in a car seat, reporting to child protection authorities may not be necessary.
The observer can advice the offender (parent or care-giver) .
In moderate neglect, a report can be made to the authorities, but that amy not be considered as a crime.

Severe neglect is a serious crime in many countries. If long term harm is done to a child, such as not providing a sick
child with required medical attention, resulting in sever or deteriorated health condition, the child protection agency may
get the law involved and applied.

Child neglect covers for main areas, as listed below:

Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, clothing, or lack of appropriate supervision)

Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)

Educational (e.g., failure to educate, provide learning facilities to a child or attend to their special education needs)

Emotional (e.g., not paying attention to a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or allowing
the child to use alcohol, drugs or get involved with crime)


Laws on child abuse vary from country to country. In the UK, for example, The Children Act 1989 states that abuse should be
considered to have happened when someone's actions have caused a child to suffer significant harm to their health or

Significant harm includes:

1. Hitting or shaking a child (Physical Abuse)
2. Punishing a child too much (Physical Abuse)
3. Constantly criticizing, threatening or rejecting a child (Emotional abuse)
4. Sexually interfering with or assaulting a child (Sexual abuse)
5. Not looking after a child not giving them enough to eat, ignoring them, not playing or talking with them or not making sure
that they are safe. (Neglect)
Sourced from

Note that a pattern of neglect behavior is key in any case of neglect. In this lesson, we shall learn more about the causes
of neglect, effects and how to tell that a child is being neglected.

Causes of Child Neglect

Child neglect, like the other forms of abuse, is one that is not easy to notice, until at a later stage, where the damage is
already done.

Children may be neglected for a number of reasons:

They come from disadvantaged backgrounds, although most children from such backgrounds are well-cared-for.

A child in care or seeking asylum is also vulnerable to neglect.

Adults who simply do not understand the needs of their children. Some adults never had any good care as children,
and have grown to think that it is acceptable.

Mental health problems, domestic abuse, and drug or alcohol misuse, may also affect a parents ability to meet their
children's needs.

Some marriages are fraught with problems and is the source of hostility and fights. Caregivers from such marriages
are more likely to take their problems out on their children in the form of neglect than those who are in good marriages.

Adults in dire financial circumstances may direct the shame, guilt and perceived failure towards people around them,
including children. They can even blame children for their situations and consequently, shun their responsibilities to them.

Types of Child Neglect

To better understand the causes of neglect, learning about the various types of child neglect can help. These the following:

Inadequate supervision:
If a parent or caregiver leaves a child with other people not qualified or responsible enough to care for them, it is neglect.
It also involves inadequate supervision for the child as they watch TV, use the internet, or play in a place that is known to
be an unsafe neighborhood. Exposure to hazardous tools, materials, weapons and the like are all considered as neglect.

Emotional neglect:
This involves the lack of, or inadequate affection and attention for the child. It also includes frequent exposure of the child
to spouse abuse and domestic violence, and denying the kid to enjoy childhood, playing and having fun with other kids, or
other people outside the home.

Physical neglect:
Some of the scenarios with physical neglect may be the disregard for appropriate clothing and nutrition for the child. It
also includes abandonment, expulsion, constantly giving others custody of the child just to have your own convenience.

Medical neglect:
Failure to get competent medical attention, for illnesses, injuries or any form of impairment may be called medical neglect.
Delay in getting medical attention is also neglect.

Educational neglect:
This includes allowing truancy, not showing adequate inters in a childs educational progress, not providing special
assistance to children with special needs.

Some common signs of child neglect include...

Note that the signs discussed below are only hints that can suggest that
children are being neglected. Until an investigation is done and a conclusion
is made, it is not easy to claim neglect by just these signs.

Usually, teachers or doctors can spot these signs because they get closer to
the children than other adults in the community.

It is important to report any suspicion of neglect, because it an early

investigation can help avoid further harm to the child. It can also help the
parent to access the support they need.

Child behavior indicators

A prolonged dental problem, skin or illness that is not being taken care
of (or appears to be ignored)

The childs progress in school is declining, or show a sudden change in


A repeatedly poorly dressed child, unkempt children and kids with constantly smelly clothes, body and mouth, can also
indicate that there are problems at home.

The child looks uninterested, withdrawn, unusually quiet, fearful and overly compliant. Lacks confidence and unhappy.

Child is not regular at school, or regularly late, or parent is always late to collect the child. Parents may alway give the
teacher excuses for the child's irregularity.

Parent or care-giver behaviors

Caregivers leave children alone for very long periods, with little or no protection/supervision from danger and

Adults with mental health problems, substance abusers, alcoholics and adults who are always involved with violent
behavior can also be tell-tale signs that their kids are being neglected.

A child taking on the role of parent of other family members, in the absence of a parent, is also another sign.

Parent is always complaining, accusing and blaming the child, or parent sees no good in the child.

Parent is heavily dependent on the child for their own comfort, satisfaction and attention. For example, they make the
child bathe, brush their teeth and take care of their own cleanness, just because they want to sit and watch a show on TV,
or chatting on the phone with their friends. The do not see the childs need as important.

The effects of child neglect

The effect of neglect can be a far reading one. Depending on the age of the child, and the length of time and type of
neglect that the child was exposed to, the effect my be in any of these areas below. Sometimes, one effect may lead to the

Health and Physical Effects:

Lack of adequate nutrition may result in malnutrition, which affects
children in many ways such as stunted growth and brain growth.
Malnutrition may also cause depression, anxiety, cognitive and motor

Social and Behavioral Effects:

Research shows that children exposed to poor family management
practices are at a greater risk of developing conduct disorders and of
participating in delinquent behavior.
Child Neglect: A Guide for Prevention, Assessment and Intervention, Diane
DePanfilis, 2006

Older children may display self-abusive behavior (e.g., suicide attempts

or cutting themselves). They may have difficulty forming and keeping

Emotional and Psychological Effect:

Children with inadequate love and emotional care may have a lower self
esteem, self-regard, self-confidence, and self-awareness. They may also
exhibit anxiety, depression and hostility.

Intellectual and Cognitive Effect:

Childrens cognitive capacity, academic and language development are
greatly affected by neglect. In some cases, neglected children had
difficulty learning in school and getting along with siblings or classmates,
with little or no interactions with peers.

Late in life, children who were neglected for long periods may engage in risky behaviors such as drug and substance
abuse, criminal activity, and sexually exploitative relationships. They may potentially pass on the treatment they received
to their children and expose their children to harmful events and things.

Tips to help prevent child neglect.

From what we have learned, the types and causes of child neglect are complex and preventive policies and actions must be
developed to cater for lager issue. Communities must be addressed, families and individuals must all have their share of
preventive programs. Here is How.

Government and community Support

Societies and communities must be empowered and strengthened to deal with its individuals and family units. Jobs,
assistance programs, housing, food, medical and other social amenities must be developed to cater for the poorer in the

Child Protection Staff must be equipped, trained to visit homes and communities that are succeptible to neglect, and must
have the resources to engage and care for families that are in need.

Regular awareness for families and individuals on parenting, family planning, available support systems and other
educative programs must be organized and participation encouraged. If members of the community are educated of the
effects of drugs and other anti-social behaviors, they are less likely to indulge in behaviors that put them and their children
at risk.

Family Systems
Strong communities are built on strong families and individuals. It is therefore important that communities encourage
families to function as support and care units. Families must ensure that other members are sound and their needs are
being met.

Family members with low income and skills must be identified and empowered.

Diversity and differences must be accepted and included. Families must be encouraged to stand in and provide care, in
cases where the care-giver is unable to. Sound family members must reach out to needy members, and from friendships
with them. This way it is easier for them to accept help and support.

Teachers and community leaders must be vigilant to spot children with signs of neglect. In many cases, they would be mild
neglect, and help can be given to prevent those cases from developing into severe neglect.

Be bold, don't wait. Call for help!

Do you know if your friend is having difficulty with reporting an abuse? Do you think you have been sexually abused,
physically abused, emotionally abused or neglected? Are you uncomfortable with a particular adults treatment to you?
Don't wait. Be bold.

Believe what the child is saying
Respond with care and urgency
Be supportive, caring and calm
Face the problem
Get help. Speak to the childs doctor immediately. Report to police or child protection agencies


Be calm.
Inform your parent, teacher or support person. Tell them everything.
Know that they cannot harm you anymore than they have already, even if they threatened to harm you if you told

Did you know:

Research consistently reflects an increased likelihood that children who have experienced abuse or neglect will smoke cigarettes,
abuse alcohol, or take illicit drugs during their lifetime. In fact, male children with an ACE Score of 6 or more (having six or more
adverse childhood experiences) had an increased likelihoodof more than 4,000 percentto use intravenous drugs later in life
(Felitti & Anda, 2009).