Understanding Child Neglect and How to Deal with It


When we think about child neglect, we often confine our imagination to picture a child who doesn’t have sufficient food, good clothing and a proper shelter.

But all these factors contribute to just one type of child neglect. There are six types of child neglect each one having several physical and emotional consequences that can be long-term and negatively affect child behaviour. Understanding what is child neglect and the types will help in identifying and responding to the neglect to avoid further complications. Here is what you need to know about child neglect, types of neglect, its risk factors and consequences, and how to deal with it effectively with good parenting.

What Is Child Neglect?

According to the Federal Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA), child neglect is the failure of parents or caretakers to provide food, shelter, safety, supervision and nutritional and emotional needs of the children. It can be physical, medical, educational and even emotional neglect that will have short-term or long-term negative impact on the overall wellbeing of the kid. It can even mean the child is being subjected to inadequate supervision when he can’t care for himself alone. Leaving the child at home with inadequate care givers is also a form of neglect.

What Are The Different Types Of Child Neglect?

Child neglect can happen in different forms and there is no particular scenario that can be either termed as a form of neglect or one that cannot be. However, there are some basic types of child neglect which include:

Physical Neglect: Not caring for the child’s physical needs like food, hygiene, clothing and shelter and the child is abandoned.

Medical Neglect: Children are denied proper medical care to treat an illness or a medical condition that could worsen. Failing to provide medical attention when a child is injured that could lead to temporary or permanent health conditions.

Educational Neglect: Children are not given proper access to education according to their age. This could even mean restricting the child to report the child abuse that they experience at home.

Emotional Neglect: This type of neglect occurs when children are deprived of their emotional needs like bonding with their parents and the positive attachment that they seek with adults. Parents may neglect their children due to their depression or alcohol and drug abuse.

Supervisory Neglect: Parents or other adults responsible for the care of children do not supervise them around dangerous circumstances and when they are around weapons that may harm them or others. Leaving them with impaired caregivers also comes under supervisory neglect.

Environmental Neglect: Leaving children in filthy environment and where the surroundings are left with rotting food and infestations of rats and/or cockroaches that may be the cause behind any spread of diseases.

Any kind of these neglects can have a negative impact on the overall development and the health of the children and parents or caregivers need to do their best in understanding and preventing such conditions.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Child Development?

While parents do not intentionally set out to neglect their children, it is often the circumstances where the parents cannot adequately support the needs of the child. But, whether a mother not understanding the feeding and sleeping patterns of her infant or doesn’t know the basic needs of child development comes under child neglect is debatable.

Sometimes, the parents’ metal condition or substance abuse may also be the reason behind neglect. Risk factors that further contribute to neglect include poverty, lack of social support and the frequent distress from neighbours. Family stress may also be the reason which can be coming out of single-parent issues or even due to domestic violence. A very young maternal age, unemployment, health issues, mental illness, low socioeconomic status could also be some of the risk factors of neglect. When it comes to child factors, developmental delays could contribute to child neglect.

Signs of Child Neglect

The sings of child neglect are more often noticed by teachers and even by neighbours who are concerned. However, there are some red flags that indicate the possibilities that a child is being neglected such as frequent absence from school, playing outside too long without any supervision, inappropriately dressed for the season, has dirty odour and, in worst case, asks for food or even steals food or money.

Consequences Of Child Neglect

The consequences of child neglect last even after a long time after the child is removed from a bad situation. Malnourishment may result in impairing the brain development and the lack of immunizations according to their age may cause a variety of health conditions. Surveys reveal that about 30 percent of children who have been removed from such situations suffer from chronic health conditions in their life.

Neglect can also result in cognitive impairments due to lack of appropriate stimulation. Neglected children may also experience delayed language development and even have academic problems. Emotional problems arising out of neglect include low self-esteem and difficulty in trusting others. Reports suggest that neglect can lead to attachment issues with their parents.

Treating Child Neglect

When treating a neglected child, the first thing that parents and care givers need to focus on is to ensure child safety. Providing neglected children with a proper family that has enough resources and education should be the primary concern of service providers. In addition, appropriate interventions including dental care, medical services and educational support should be provided.

Mental health treatment that addresses issues with child behaviour, their emotions and behaviour is also helpful when dealing with child neglect. Service providers should also focus on treating the parents or care givers with appropriate mental health treatment and substance abuse services to avoid any further occurrences and become better equipped for the care of children.