What Is Child Neglect?
Children are gifts that we love and cherish as they grow up. Even in the families where children may not have been planned...
... parents will try to adjust to make sure that their children are properly cared for and loved so that their child has the best possible childhood and environment to grow up in. However, many parents may simply not be suited for this experience or may lose some of that interest and focus on their child over time. When this happens, child neglect sometimes happens, often without the parent’s knowledge. Parents and children alike can benefit from talk therapy or parenting classes through as online counseling.
Are You Neglecting Your Kid?
The definition of child neglect is when a parent fails to provide sufficient emotional, physical, or financial support for their child. “Support” includes all basic needs, such as necessary healthcare and medical attention,nutritious food, adequate clothing, education, safe housing, hygiene, emotional support, and security.A child needs all of these components to experience a stable childhood.
Child neglect is a form of child abuse, and legal action can be taken against someone who neglects a child in their care. A neglectful parent or guardian can be arrested and face criminal charges for neglect, as well as temporarily or permanently lose custody of their child. The most severe consequence of child neglect, however, is the long-term impact the neglect can have upon a child’s development, physical wellness, and lifelong emotional health. The following discussion will provide more details about the consequences of child neglect and how to prevent them.
What Is A Bad Parent?
A common fear among parents is that they might become a “bad parent.” While labeling yourself or someone else as a “bad parent” is not productive, any form of child neglect needs to be stopped. Fortunately, recognizing the symptoms and signs of child neglect can help a parent or guardian improve their child’s life, either proactively or in response to realizing where they may have fallen short and become neglectful.
Learn To Recognize Symptoms
Signs To Look Out For
- Does not attend school regularly.
- Is constantly dirty. The child has body odor, dirty clothes, hair, etc.
- Has poor health due to the neglectful lack of health and medical care that’s required.
- Abuses alcohol and harmful substances – something that happens in older children.
- Shows no attachment or affection towards you.
- Is either extremely aggressive or extremely depressed and fearful all the time.
- Has trouble with walking or sitting – most often found in sexually abused children.
- Has cuts, bruises, and wounds on their body – most often found in physically abused children.
- Runs away from home for long periods.Common Examples Of Neglectful Behavior
If you are concerned about your own neglectful behavior to your child as a parent or guardian or think you may have observed child neglect outside your household, consider the following examples of neglectful behaviors.
- Calling the child by derogatory names
- Frequently yelling at or threatening the child
- Belittling, shaming, or humiliating the child
- Exposing the child to violence, even if the violence is not directed at them
- Limited physical contact with the child—a lack of kisses, hugs, comforting, or other signs of affection
- Ignoring the child or giving them “the silent treatment”
- Rejecting the child when they approach
- Comparing the child to others or using terms like “worthless” or “useless” to describe them
- Hitting or using violence against your child
- When your child is sexually abused, even if it’s by another adult and you’re aware of it but do nothing about it
- Abandoning your child for long periods of time and not leaving them supervised
- Not providing your child with clothing and not providing them with appropriate clothing according to the weather
- Leaving hazardous items around the house and within reach of your child. Not securing your home for your child
- Not providing nutritious meals for your child and not keeping food in your home.
- Poor hygiene – not bathing your child, grooming them, and washing their clothing
- Leaving children in the car unattended
- Not cleaning your home and allowing your child to live in a dirty and unsanitary home
- Not providing the child with necessary health and medical care or neglecting preventive appointments, such as vision screenings or dental appointments
- Not providing the child with needed treatments or equipment, such as dental fillings, hearing aids, or corrective lenses
- Allowing the child to develop itchiness or wounds from lack of hygiene
- Failing to provide a safe, quiet sleeping environment for the child
- Truancy or unexcused absences from school
- Low grades without explanation or interest in improving
- Lack of awareness about assignments and school events
- Failure to make arrangements regarding the child’s special needs, if applicable
Neglecting a child can have multiple negative impacts on their development and general behavior, both in the short term and over the child’s lifespan. Children who are physically neglected are at greater risk of developmental issues, both physically and mentally.
A child who is neglected is at greater risk of developing mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other conditions.
Children who are neglected tend to have lower self-esteem. A child who is neglected may have difficulty interacting with other children, and in the formation of healthy relationships with others in both childhood and adulthood.
Children who are neglected tend to perform poorly at school, which can affect their later education and careers.
Teenagers who are neglected are more likely to engage in alcohol and substance use, high-risk sexual behaviors, and illegal behaviors. They are also less likely to form healthy relationships as adults. Being neglected as a child can make a person more likely to neglect their own children.
What Causes Parents To Neglect Their Kids?
It May Be Unintentional
No one becomes a parent with the outright goal of neglecting their children, but neglect to the child can still occur. Here are a few common reasons for the occurrence of child neglect:
Alcohol And Substance Use
If a parent has addiction disorders, they may focus on the addictive behavior to the exclusion of all else, neglecting their children. If a parent is preoccupied with substance use, their children may be left to fend for themselves in terms of food, education, transportation, and other necessities. Substance use treatment programs can help a willing neglectful parent regain control of their life over time.
Parents Who Were Neglected
Because parents who were neglected as children were denied the care or resources they needed, they may be less aware of their own children’s needs. If a parent did not receive emotional support or care from their own parent or guardian, for instance, then they might not understand the typical depth of emotional support a child needs to thrive. Therapy and support programs can help a parent who has experienced child neglect learn to break the cycle.
Parents Who Are Physically Ill
Unfortunately, some parents who wish to provide everything their children need may be unable to do so and become neglectful of their children because of a physical or mental illness. This situation can be devastating to a family, and outside support is needed to help both the parent or guardian and their children.
Turning Your Parenting Around
Several misconceptions persist about child neglect, and it’s worth debunking them before considering what to change in your own parenting. First of all, neglect of children can occur in any family, regardless of wealth or socioeconomic status. Second, neglect is indeed a form of abuse—if a child is being denied from having a basic need fulfilled, whether physical, emotional, financial, or educational, then that child is experiencing abuse.
Finally, it is not true that only “bad people” abuse or neglect their children. Some parents and guardians have no intention of harming or neglecting the children in their care, but they are struggling with a physical or mental illness, such as substance use disorder, or are overwhelmed by other life circumstances, such as unemployment. People who are well-intentioned and loving can still neglect a child. The good news is that help is available to support neglectful parents in providing their children with the care they need and deserve.
Tips To Change Your Actions
Understand What Needs To Change
Try to come up with a list of things that are not working and are leading to the neglect of your child. With the assistance of a therapist, if possible, write down a personal inventory of your current strengths and weaknesses and do some research into common neglectful parenting mistakes. Once you have developed a clear picture of the situation, your child’s situation, what neglectful behavior is, and what needs to change, you can brainstorm possible solutions to neglect and seek out resources to help you and your child.
Let Positivity Pave The Way
Your child is better able to grow when they receive sufficient, positive attention. This means focusing on supportive words and praise when you are interacting with your child and encouraging them through their schoolwork, interests, and decision making.
No matter how important your career or other aspects of your life may be, don’t neglect your child– your child comes first. Make sure that you are making a conscious effort to spend time with your child, talk with them, and play with them. Lack of time may be an instigating factor for neglect, especially if you are struggling financially or overextended at work, but even a few minutes each morning and evening of genuine focus and conversation with your child can start to make a difference.
Reach Out For Help
Parenting is a full-time job, and it can be overwhelming. Try not to be afraid of reaching out for help, both from supportive family and friends and from a therapist or counselor when you need it. It is not neglectful to your child to do so. As a well-known African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” No one is born knowing how to be an effective parent; try not to feel embarrassed or insecure about asking for guidance, especially if you did not receive positive or attentive parenting while you were growing up.
Ways To Get Help
Seeking therapy is not a sign of having failed as a parent, but rather of committing to become a better one—and it is effective. Studies have shown that parents can significantly improve their parenting competence and lower rates of child abuse and neglect by working with therapists, particularly when therapists provide strong ongoing coaching and supervision to help parents learn positive parenting and discipline methods. Online therapy can be a place to privately and effectively create change in your parenting style. Regardless of your life circumstances or additional concerns like substance use or other mental health concerns, online therapy through a service like BetterHelp may be able to provide the support you need.
BetterHelp’s online therapy services are provided by licensed mental health counselors who are experienced in helping families like yours. You, your family, and your children deserve fulfilling, healthy, supportive relationships, and BetterHelp can assist you on the road to recovery. Here are a few reviews from previous clients of their BetterHelp counselors.
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Commonly asked questions found below:
What are the 4 types of child neglect?
The four types of child neglect are:
- Physical neglect
- Emotional neglect
- Medical neglect
- Educational neglect
Physical neglect means that the parents neglect children by failing to provide them with their child’s basic physical needs, such as adequate food, clothing, water, shelter, or the child’s safety. In this type of child mistreatment, the child may have poor hygiene because their parents don’t bathe them or wash their clothes. Their parents might not feed the children regularly or may leave a young child alone with no one to supervise them to keep them out of harm’s way. If a child is left with inadequate supervision, they can be harmed by things in their environment, their own unsafe play, or strangers who intrude on them. Because they are unprotected by their parents, child maltreatment can come from other people inside or outside the family. They may not have adequate food available that they can prepare, and trying to prepare it themselves may lead to a hazard like a fire. Health and human services can step in to stop the physical neglect, but it is much better if the parent does better at protecting and caring for their children’s physical needs themselves.
Emotional neglect means that the parents do not give their children any emotional support or have an emotional connection with them. They might not ever hug them or give them any attention at all. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to prove emotional neglect, so often, when human services organizations are called, they don’t see incontrovertible signs that emotional neglect is happening.
Medical neglect means that the neglected children are not getting adequate medical care or none at all. This is a serious type of child mistreatment. Parents neglect children by failing to get them any treatment for illnesses or injuries. Or, parents might deny the child’s basic medical needs by not getting them regular checkups, good dental care, or corrective lenses if needed. If health care professionals see signs of medical neglect, they are duty-bound to report child abuse and neglect to an organization like health and human services. The child welfare information gateway may receive a notification.
Educational neglect means not ensuring that your child gets an education. It could mean that the parent doesn’t make the child go to school or doesn’t even have them enrolled in school or have them in homeschooling. Human services can usually find out very quickly if this type of neglect is happening once they are alerted to the situation.
What is neglect as a child?
Child neglect is a form of physical and psychological maltreatment that consists of the failure of parents to give their children the things they need to survive and thrive. A neglected child will suffer this child maltreatment in many ways that are physically and emotionally uncomfortable or even painful. Abuse and neglect from parents damage the child’s physical, mental, and social health, often in the long term.
A neglected child may suffer socially, partly because other children don’t relate to their often-dirty appearance, their severe body odor, their emotional problems, or their experiences of child neglect. They suffer physically, often going hungry or thirsty or having to be out in harsh weather without the proper clothing. They suffer emotionally because of the emotional neglect of their parents, who aren’t emotionally available when their children have worries, emotional pain, or fears.
Neglected children who don’t get the medical care they need can suffer from health problems and lags in child development. The child’s health may be affected for the rest of their lives. The child’s physical well being may also be impacted by substance abuse, which often happens when neglected children are left alone with inadequate supervision. Alcohol and drug abuse can be difficult for a young child or teen to overcome without the support of an attentive parent, so this problem, too, may follow them throughout the child’s life. Human services organizations can sometimes assist parents with addressing their children’s medical needs. A youth services review may be required to address the child’s drug abuse or alcohol use.
If, throughout the child’s life, they have experienced child neglect, they may see it as normal. Yet, they still suffer just as much. The neglected child doesn’t have what they need to do well at school, so their well being continues to suffer as they get older and become adults themselves. In addition, if child neglect seems normal to them, they are likely to continue the cycle by neglecting their own children.
If you know that a child is being neglected, you should call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. Health and human services can help as well if you see definite signs of neglect. Human services not only offer direct support for the child but may also provide interventions that help the parent take better care of the child.
What are examples of neglect of a child?
Here are some examples of how children suffer neglect:
- Don’t get the medical services they need – for example, they may have a broken bone and are never taken to the hospital to get it set.
- Parents don’t provide emotional support – when another child bullies them, their parent does nothing to protect them or resolve the situation.
- Don’t get dental care – their parents don’t take them for regular dental checkups or to have a cavity filled when needed.
- Have inadequate nurturing – their parents don’t give them the attention they need to mature in a healthy way.
- Don’t have adequate supervision – their parents leave them alone every day or even overnight.
- Don’t develop healthy relationships with family members or others in their life – their parents don’t teach them how to get along with their older or younger siblings, so they don’t learn to get along with their peers.
- Neglected children often have severe body odor, dirty clothes, or itchiness due to unwashed skin.
- Become damaged parents themselves and perpetuate the neglect of their own children
- Are at substantial risk for physical and mental health problems
Children who are neglected can be helped by the proper agencies. Sometimes, a case will be opened to determine if the child is being neglected. In some cases, a youth services review will follow.
What counts as neglect from parents?
What is passive neglect?
Passive neglect is a failure to give the child the basic necessities of life, but the reason is important. If a parent doesn’t give them these things because they don’t understand what the child needs or isn’t aware of where to get the services or items to furnish them, this is passive neglect. Also, if the parent is unable to provide these things due to poverty, physical disabilities, or mental health issues, it is passive neglect. An abused parent – usually the mother – may be so consumed with avoiding physical abuse to their child from domestic violence that they unintentionally fail to meet their child’s other needs. Meanwhile, the abusive parent may be so overly strict that the child suffers physical and emotional child abuse as well as neglect.
In some cases of passive neglect, human services can help the parent find the resources to provide for their children, and this solves the problem. In other cases, it becomes clear that the parent is actually willfully neglecting their child. This type of physical and psychological maltreatment will be dealt with by health and human services. Many children end up in foster care because of willful neglect.
The Children’s Bureau provides a yearly report on child maltreatment with statistics about the known cases of neglect along with other forms of abuse. The report from the Children’s Bureau detailed many startling statistics from 2020, including the following.
According to the Children’s Bureau, about 2 million children got preventative care. The Children’s Bureau also says that 1.2 million children got services after an investigation or another type of response. In addition, about 21.8 percent of children who were maltreated were taken out of their homes after the investigation, according to the Children’s Bureau report.
If health and human services organizations get involved, they may help the child by having the mother and/or father take parenting classes to learn parenting skills. The human services staff may involve the family in therapy to deal with the past emotional harm and improve their family life. They may receive therapeutic services for mental health issues within the family, depending on the child’s age. These statistics become a part of the Children’s Bureau report.
Another statistic that shows how children are educationally neglected is that more than half of children who died as a result of abuse or neglect in Texas were not enrolled in educational programs like school or daycare.
Many other organizations, including international and national society organizations, help children who suffer neglect.
How do you identify child neglect?
There are many emotional, social, and physical signs of the same physical abuse of child neglect.
- Child neglect may show up as open wounds, injuries, or illnesses that cause a child to have serious harm but never receive proper attention or health care.
- Children appear dirty, with disheveled or unclean hair, skin, and clothing.
- Children show signs of poor growth and development.
- Children steal, beg, or hoard food.
- Children don’t show up for school or aren’t enrolled.
- They give unrealistic explanations for injuries.
- They withdraw from other children or even friends they used to have.
- They rebel or act defiantly.
- These children may have nightmares or trouble sleeping and may fall asleep at school.
- They may have depression or anxiety.
- They might become angry, aggressive, hostile, or hyperactive.
- Their school performance may drop drastically.
- They might harm themselves intentionally.
- Slightly older siblings are put in complete charge of younger ones.
What is willful neglect?
Willful child neglect is failing to meet the child’s needs because the parent is unwilling to do so. Willful neglect is a form of child abuse because the parent intentionally refuses to take care of the child’s physical or emotional well being. Willful neglect is also considered a form of reckless disregard for the child’s safety and well being. Health and human services can intervene in cases of this type of child abuse.
What is emotionally neglected?
Emotional child neglect refers to a type of child abuse in which the parent neglects their child’s emotional health. It might or might not go along with physical neglect, but in either case, this term refers to the emotional component of child abuse. Health and human services usually help with the emotional aspect when physical aspects are reported to the human services center. It’s often difficult for health and human services workers to determine if an emotional type of neglect is happening, but sometimes the signs are obvious.
People who have suffered childhood abuse often have many risk factors for mental and physical health problems later in life. They also have risk factors for becoming neglectful or abusive parents themselves.
What is active neglect?
Active neglect is a form of child maltreatment that is abuse and neglect wrapped into one. It might be physical abuse, neglect, or intentional emotional abuse. The parents may be engaging in substance abuse so that they don’t care about taking care of their child’s needs. Substance abuse is more important to them than their responsibilities as a parent.
Domestic violence may play a part in the abuse and neglect as well. Domestic violence can shift the focus from taking care of emotional needs to protecting them physically. A human services organization may be needed to protect the child from this type of child maltreatment.