Is Your Child Being Neglected?

Neglect refers to the mistreatment and the failure of a caregiver to provide the basic needs to the person they take care of. It usually happens because of the caregiver’s inability to care for the person they’re in charge of properly.

It’s most likely for the caretaker not to recognize that neglect is happening, so others must recognize the risk factors for neglect and identify the signs and symptoms in high-risk groups.

The Difference Between Neglect and Abuse

Neglect and abuse are similar in several ways; both involve treatment and caring for dependent people, dangerous actions from caregivers, and lasting adverse consequences for the victims. However, the two have some distinct contrasts between each other that influence how they are addressed.

While child abuse, defined by the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) as recklessly, intentionally, or knowingly causing emotional, physical, or sexual harm to a child. It includes mental injury, bodily harm, and sexual exploitation. Neglect, on the flip side, might not always be deliberate. For instance, a caregiver’s declining health may cause them to neglect their child unintentionally.

Types of Neglect

Neglect can be further defined by analyzing its types. One of the two age groups that are most at-risk to experience neglect is the children, as they usually require the help of others in taking care of themselves.

Child neglect has four main types:

Physical: Failure to provide essentials such as food, clothing, shelter, safety, supervision, and standard medical care.

Emotional: Failure to attend to a child’s psychological and emotional needs.

Educational: Failure to provide proper education for school-age children whether in school, homeschooled, or specialized educational training.

Medical: Failure to provide sustenance for the necessary medical treatment prescribed by medical experts; this can also include mental health treatment depending on the state.

Risk Factors

To identify neglect, it helps if you know exactly where to look. Several factors may put people at risk of becoming victims of negligence or becoming negligent caretakers. Parents who have substance abuse issues may have more potential of neglecting their children, and children who live in violent or poor neighborhoods may be at more considerable risk for neglect.

Child neglect risk factors include:

  • Poverty
  • Domestic violence
  • Stressful life circumstances 
  • Chronic mental or medical health problems in the family
  • Parents with alcohol and drug issues
  • Familial or parental loss and grief
  • Lack of social aids
  • Parents or caregivers with cognitive impairment or disabilities
  • Having young kids

wooden planks, bridge, toddler, teddy bear

Signs of Neglect

Except for risk factors, there are many warning signs to consider when identifying possible neglect victims. 

Child neglect warning signs include:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Difficulties in learning
  • An increase in mental health concerns
  • Stealing or scrounging for food
  • Signs of malnourishment or weight loss
  • Untreated wounds or ailments
  • Shifts in school attendance or performance
  • Dirty clothing, inadequate clothing for the weather, poor hygiene
  • Inconsistent surveillance
  • Frequent alcohol or drug use by child or caregiver

Effects of Neglect

Victims of child neglect can be adversely affected by it. The duration of the effects depends on how severe the neglect is, the victim’s age when it happened, how long it was, and the type of care given.

Young children, particularly those under the age of 3 and 4, need attentive caregivers to adhere to their physical, cognitive, emotional, and psychological needs. This type of care encourages safety and healthy development. Studies show that the lack of regular care can cause a child to manifest trauma responses. The brain doesn’t gain the positive stimulation it needs for growth during neglect; instead, it’s swamped with stress hormones. Continuous under-stimulation partnered with anxiety and ongoing fear can negatively affect a child’s mental and physical development, resulting in problems as they grow.

These issues may include:

Addiction: Research indicates that children experiencing neglect or abuse are more likely to misuse alcohol and drugs.

Inadequate physical health: Studies show that neglected children may be at risk for poor lung function, diabetes, or adolescent obesity.

Impaired brain development: Regions of the brain may not properly develop, resulting in academic and cognitive problems, language and speech issues, and mental health problems.

Poor emotional or mental health: Neglect places children at risk for mental health problems related to trauma, including anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, and borderline personality. Research indicates a more substantial possibility of depressive episodes and suicidal ideation with those who experienced neglect and abuse.

Behavioral issues: Children experiencing neglect may be present with indiscriminate friendless and have poor boundaries.

Poor social skills and attachment: Some infants and toddlers who lost their primary caretaker at such a young age have difficulty forming connections later on.

People who have experienced neglect may be more likely to have anxiety, depression, attachment issues, and feelings of isolation. Individuals who want to overcome hurdles associated with these problems might want to chat with a mental health professional.