What is Neglect and Why Is It Abuse?

Posted by Idaho Youth Ranch on Apr 10, 2021 7:03:44 PM
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When a parent withholds meeting the basic needs of their child physically, emotionally, educationally, or medically it is considered neglect. In the United States, among all mistreated children (672,000), 7 out of 1,000 were victims of neglect. The percentage of maltreated children who were neglected increased from 49% to 75% from 1990 to 2016. The effects of neglect as a child can be both physical and psychological, lasting well into adulthood and sometimes throughout one’s lifetime. In Idaho, 65.1% of adults have experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience, ACE, with emotional abuse/neglect being the most common at 37.6%. 

What Does Neglect Look Like?

There are four different types of neglect: physical, medical, educational, and emotional. Physical neglect includes being uninvolved or unavailable to provide a child with food, clothing, shelter, or parental supervision. This can be easier to spot than emotional neglect. Educational and medical neglect are also easier to detect as medical or dental needs can be easy to spot, as can educational support such as help with homework and science projects, etc. Emotional neglect, a form of emotional abuse, could look like humiliating a child in public, rejecting the child, withholding outward displays of affection such as holding the child or giving the child bizarre or irrational punishments that do not fit the mistake. 

Signs of neglect in a child include:

  • Being disconnected from their feelings
  • Frequent absences
  • Stealing or begging for food/money
  • Becoming overwhelmed or discouraged easily
  • Lacking medical or dental care, immunizations, glasses, etc.
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Persistently dirty/body odor
  • Lacking appropriate clothing for the weather
  • Perfectionism toward self and others
  • Being extra sensitive to rejection from others, or having great fears of rejection
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Reports that no one is home to take care of them
  • Feeling empty inside, like something is missing, but is unsure as to what it is (this could lead to trying to fill the emptiness with food or other supplemental habits)

The types of parents who are most prone to neglect include those who are:

  • Authoritarian (strict or controlling)
  • Permissive (not strict enough, allows too much freedom)
  • Absent (travels often for work or leaves the child with daycare staff and babysitters, is absent mentally due to drug or alcohol abuse, etc.)
  • Perfectionists (unrealistic expectations of a child, makes the child feel undeserving of love)
  • Narcissistic in nature (only cares about oneself and doesn’t make the child feel loved unless doing so to manipulate, etc.)
  • Irrational
  • Indifferent toward the child
  • Apathetic or depressed
  • Alcohol or drug dependent or abusive

Neglect is more of an ongoing, repetitive cycle rather than a one-time incident, although all it takes is for one incident to cause physical or psychological damage to a child. Unfortunately, younger children are at the greatest risk for neglect as they require the most care. Girls also tend to suffer from neglect more frequently than boys. 

Long-Term Effects of Neglect

The long-term effects of neglect vary from one child to the next, depending on the type of neglect experienced, the severity of it, and the resiliency of the child. The effects of emotional neglect include low self-esteem that is persistent into adulthood and an unquenchable feeling of emptiness. This could also look like depression and anxiety in teens. The impacts of medical neglect could be as severe as death depending on the medical need. It could also lead to further health issues down the line and an inability to sufficiently take care of one’s own medical needs as an adult. Educational neglect could result in attention or learning issues, self-esteem issues, or feeling inadequate or unintelligent. Physical neglect effects also vary depending on the situation. On one end of the spectrum, it could result in death, substance abuse disorders, or mental illness. 

What to Do If You Suspect Neglect

If you suspect abuse or neglect, it’s important to report it immediately so that it can be evaluated by social services. In the state of Idaho, everyone is a mandated reporter, so that means that if you suspect any form of neglect, you’re mandated by law to report it. 

If you suspect child neglect, call 2-1-1 and state your intent to report child abuse or neglect. You can also call 1-855-552-KIDS or your local authorities. If you are not located in Idaho, it’s still important to report suspected neglect. 

If you are the parent or guardian of a child who has suffered from neglect, it’s important to ask for help or seek professional support, child counseling, or Idaho youth counseling near you to help them heal and move forward in life in a healthy, successful way. Our expert professionals are here to help your child recover from neglect at Idaho Youth Ranch


Topics: Child Abuse, ACEs