How Does Parental Neglect Affect Children?

In today’s blog, we will discuss How does parental neglect affect children. According to the Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, approximately 678,000 children in the country were deemed victims of abuse or neglect in 2018, with approximately 60.8% of those suffering from neglect. Furthermore, the bureau estimated that 1,770 children died in 2018 as a result of abuse or neglect. 

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines neglect as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver that poses an imminent risk of serious harm to the child.”

Parental neglect can harm a child’s physical and mental health, and cause physiological changes in the brain, academic difficulties, and criminal behavior. Parental mental health, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and uninvolved parenting form some of the reasons behind child neglect.

What Is Parental Neglect?

It is also called child neglect. Parental neglect is when a parent or legal guardian fails to fulfill the necessities of the child. It is a form of child abuse and a punishable offense under California Penal Code 270.

Parental neglect can take many forms. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child neglect as “physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as physical and emotional neglect.”

Types Of Parental Neglect

Parental neglect can be classified into several subtypes:

Emotional neglect

It is the failure to provide a child with adequate nurturing, affection, encouragement, and support. Emotional neglect is sometimes referred to as emotional maltreatment – particularly where a caregiver belittles, calls child names, or actively isolates and demeans a child.

Physical Neglect

occurs when there is a failure to provide age-appropriate physical necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter.

Medical Neglect

It is the failure to provide adequate medical care. This could happen as a result of a failure to recognize the seriousness of an illness or condition when a reasonable parental response would be to seek care, or it could happen as a result of deliberate withholding of appropriate care.

Educational Neglect

It is the failure to provide an education and the necessary tools for participation in a school system. Examples include allowing a child to stay home from school or preventing a child from attending school without reasonable justification (e.g., illness), or having the means to provide books and required tools.


It occurs when a caregiver leaves a child alone for an extended period and does not provide alternative age-appropriate care. Alternative care is only acceptable if the substitute caregiver is capable of caring for the child. For example, leaving an infant in the care of an adult who is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs would consider inadequate age-appropriate care.

Supervisory Neglect

Absence or inattention characterizes supervisor neglect. It can result in physical harm or injury, sexual abuse, or allowing criminal behavior in an older child.

Effect Of Parental Neglect On Children

Anomalies in the structure and function of the brain.

Children who have experienced high levels of social neglect early in life have lower electrical activity in the brain than non-neglected children who struggle with attention and learning. These children also have lower brain metabolism and weaker connections between different parts of the brain that are necessary for cognitive, emotional, and social competence.

Changes in the development of biological stress-response systems make it difficult for children to cope with adversity.

Significant deprivation disrupts two major stress response systems in humans: the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system (which produces adrenaline and influences the heart and respiration rates) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (which elevates the stress hormone cortisol). Severely neglected children have abnormal cortisol levels, which can cause structural weakness in the developing brain architecture, with long-term consequences.

Physical development problems and immune system dysfunction.

Severe neglect links to delayed head circumference growth in the early years. Extreme deprivation (for example, institutional settings where children are “warehoused”). It associates with widespread growth problems (smaller body size, impaired gross motor skills, and coordination). Compromising physical health, and an increased risk of infection and stress-related diseases later in life.

Emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal relationship difficulties.

Chronic neglect can result in insecure or disorganized attachment to primary caregivers, which can affect interactions with others as children grow older. Weakened social skills and fewer peer interactions are common outcomes. Chronically neglected infants and toddlers frequently exhibit increased negative emotions, such as poor impulse control, decreased enthusiasm, confidence, and assertiveness when problem-solving, and an inability to distinguish emotions. As they get older, they may develop emotional issues such as low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and lack of assertiveness. Personality disorders, anxiety, and depression are also potential hazards.

Cognitive issues, academic delays, poor executive function skills, and difficulty regulating attention are all common symptoms.

Children who have been severely neglected often have cognitive impairments and academic delays. These children also have more school problems and they refer to special education than other children. Low IQ scores, low high school graduation rates, and poor reading skills are all problems that persist into adulthood. Parental neglect also harms executive function skills, which are essential for functioning effectively and independently in life. Serious neglect also has an impact on children’s ability to regulate their attention. Leaving them unfocused and unable to pay attention in school.

Treatment For Parental Neglect

To help a child recover from parental neglect, he must be removed from a neglectful environment to a nurturing setting.

Three interventions have been identified as effective for children who have experienced significant neglect:

Attachment and Bio-Behavioral Catch-Up (ABC) Intervention

It is a short-term intervention to improve attachment regulation and bio-behavioral regulation in abused or neglected infants and toddlers in foster care, relative care, or living with birth parents. It strengthens parents’ or caregivers’ sensitivity and responsiveness to their infant’s cues and assists them in providing a setting that allows them to improve their regulatory abilities.

Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP)

CPP aims to improve social-emotional, behavioral, and cognitive functioning in children, aged 0 to 5, who have witnessed interpersonal violence or other traumatic events and may have mental health, attachment, and/or behavioral issues as a result. It restores trust in the parent-child relationship by increasing the parent’s ability to protect and assist the child in regaining a sense of safety.

Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care Preschool Program (MFTC-P)

This program is an early intervention program for vulnerable children, aged 3-6 in foster care with a history of neglect. It promotes healthy self-regulation, positive relationships with caregivers and peers, and improved school readiness.

This program assists caregivers in creating positive, responsive, and consistent environments for young children by reinforcing positive behaviors and establishing boundaries to address problem behaviors. Behavioral therapy and playgroups provide additional support.

The Ending Note 

Parental neglect can manifest in many forms and disrupts various aspects of a child’s mental, emotional, and cognitive development. Timely intervention is necessary to prevent mental health problems, physical diseases, and academic and social challenges in the child.

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