Child neglect and maltreatment


Neglect is one of the most common forms of child abuse and maltreatment. It can negatively affect the physical and mental health of a child. and can lead to long-term consequences. It is a pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic needs, which include food, clothing, hygiene, or supervision. 

Types of neglect

When you think of a neglected child, you probably think of a child left at home alone or without food. But there are various forms of neglect  

  • Physical neglect: is when child’s basic needs like hygiene, clothing, nutrition, or shelter are not met or a child is abandoned.
  • Emotional neglect: is not providing affection or emotional support or exposing a child to inappropriate situations such as domestic violence or substance abuse.  
  • Inadequate supervision: is not protecting a child from safety hazards or leaving the child alone or with inadequate caregivers

Why might parents neglect a child?

Many parents don't set out to neglect their children however some parents might be unable to attend to a child’s needs. Neglect can be intentional or unintentional.

It can be unintentional, in the case of a young parent who is unable to understand a child’s basic needs e.g., inability to understand how often they should feed or change their infant.  

At times a parents’ mental health may prevent them from providing their children with adequate care. 

Factors such as poverty, single-parent household, domestic violence, family stress, unemployment, lower socioeconomic status, parenting stress, health issues, mental illness, or substance abuse issues might increase a child’s risk of being neglected.

Consequences of neglect

When kids are neglected, it can impact their overall health and development. Even after a child is removed from a bad situation, the consequences of neglect can have lasting impacts such as substance abuse or self-harming behaviour. 

Malnourishment may impair development and can lead to a variety of health conditions. Children with a history of neglect may suffer from cognitive impairment, academic problems or delayed or impaired speech and language development

Severe emotional problems can be caused by neglect such as attachment issues, self-esteem issues etc. Neglected children might struggle to develop healthy relationships.

Helping a neglected child 

Depending on your local laws a report of child neglect can be filed with a relevant authority. A social worker or the child protective services representatives then ensures the child is safe.

Safety of a child can be increased by just providing the parent/guardian with education and awareness about childcare. However, in some cases, children may need to be placed in another environment to safeguard them.

After the most immediate concerns are addressed, some sort of mental health treatment for the neglected child. A mental health counsellor might be able to help the child address their emotions, behaviours and concerns. 

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